True Evangelical Faith

“For true evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lay dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto flesh and blood; destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; cordially seeks, serves and fears God; clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it; teaches, admonishes and reproves with the Word of the Lord; seeks that which is lost; binds up that which is wounded; heals that which is diseased and saves that which is sound.  The persecution, suffering and anxiety which befalls it for the sake of the truth of the Lord, is to it a glorious joy and consolation.”
(Menno Simons)

Who do you say that I am?

“Now it happened that as he (Jesus) was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”  And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:18-26 ESV)

Who do I say that Jesus is?  It does not matter what the crowds say – it matters what I say.  Jesus makes this question about his identity a very personal one.  Jesus gives us his mission statement, and then tells us what our mission statement as his followers should be.  He was willing to suffer for me; am I willing to suffer for him?

Following Jesus

“If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 9:23, ESV)

The third aspect of the Christian life we see in this verse is following Jesus.  Following Jesus means actively identifying oneself with Jesus and willingly accepting that which he teaches.

In order to truly follow Christ, a person must deny self and take up their cross.  After ceasing to live for oneself and submitting to God’s will, a person is able to follow Jesus as he models and teaches God’s way.

Cross-Bearing

“If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 9:23, ESV)

The second aspect  of the Christian life that Jesus mentions in this verse is cross-bearing.  As with Jesus, the Christian’s road to glory runs through the cross.  Jesus connects denial of self with the bearing of the cross, suggesting that the cross can only be carried by those who have denied self.

The daily aspect of cross-bearing is also emphasized – it must be done every day!

Many Christians misunderstand the cross – they think of their cross as a nutty boss, an unfair teacher, or a cranky mother-in-law.  Those things are not pleasant, but they are not the cross of Christ.

The cross of Christ is the suffering and rejection we experience as a result of our dedication to Christ and his gospel.  That thought prompted me to wonder, Do I have any difficulties because of how closely I am following Christ?

The world hated and rejected Christ – if we are faithfully following Christ the same will be true for us.  Taking up the cross is a commitment that will lead to rejection and possibly death.

Self-Denial

“If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

(Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 9:23, ESV)

In this verse Jesus informs us of three aspects of the Christian life: self-denial, cross-bearing, and following after Christ.  The first of those is self-denial, which means refusing to make self that which controls your life.

Jesus and his cause are to be taken up as the Christian’s chief loyalty.  To follow Christ you must deny personal control of your own life.  Jesus modeled that for us in his sacrificial death.  It was God’s will that he die on the cross, and Jesus was fully committed to obeying that to which God had called him.

The attitude of Jesus can be seen in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, “Not as I will, but as you will” (see Matthew 26:39).  That attitude of self-denial should characterize the life of every Christian.