In my last post I wrote about the division that the Gospel necessarily brings to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ and I ended with this Scripture, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14.27). It is to this exhortation I would like to turn. What does it mean to bear a cross?
First, it means we must count the cost of discipleship. Jesus reckons this to building a tower. Before you set yourself to the work of construction, you must examine whether or not you have the capacities to build that tower. Or, if you are king going to battle with ten thousand soldiers against the opposing king with an army of twenty thousand, would you not consider the cost of such a battle before you waged it? In the same way, choosing to follow Jesus means you have to count the cost. As I said in my last post, chasing after Christ means you will leave certain people (family, friends, coworkers) behind.
By counting the cost ahead of time, you will be more prepared to endure when the occasion arises. This means you must set your moral standards and stick to them. For example, a pastor in a church may choose not to marry a man and woman who live together before the wedding. In his mind, if he does marry them without prior separation and repentance, it would show that God is disinterested in our moral lives. Not only that, the wedding of two unrepentant persons who claim Christ as Lord is a slight against what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Because of the Gospel, human marriage represents the relation between Christ (the husband) ad the church (the wife). If a pastor were to make this bold statement, you can bet that he would face strong opposition from our culture, families, and even other pastors. A good book on the cost of discipleship is, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In other words, counting the cost of discipleship makes us realize that putting Christ as our first priority will inevitably ruffle feathers.
Second, bearing a cross means that we are willing to be lead by Jesus in all areas of life, even if that leadership brings us to our death. After counting the cost, you must be willing to bear the burden of seeing discipleship through. This is indeed a hard task for your love for Jesus must outweigh your love for anything, or anyone, else, even father, mother, son, daughter or sibling. Craig Evans, in his commentary on Luke, writes, “Anyone who would follow Jesus must be prepared to endure the same fate Jesus himself endured” 229. Thus, prior to following Jesus you must decide whether or not he is worthy of total commitment, and I assure you he is.
To pick up your cross daily, and follow Jesus means that you will be consistently walking against the grain of our culture, broadly speaking, and your loved ones. Even so, you will be brought into confrontation with your own expectations and desires that are contrary to the will of God, and they must take a back seat or be put to death altogether. Being a disciple of Jesus means that your mind must be renewed (Romans 12.1-2) and you must have a full commitment in your heart to see that renewal through. Darrell Bock, in his commentary on Luke, writes,
[Discipleship] will mean intense involvement with God’s Word and with other believers who are dedicated to growing in their faith. A disciple is never stagnant and never has the spiritual life in a mode where God cannot challenge him or her to a deeper walk. As Jesus has noted, it is an offering of the self in service to the Son of Man…Jesus saved us for discipleship” 269.