When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Mark 8:34-35 NKJV
Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t water down His message to attract people. He wanted them to know the cost of following Him was great; but the reward was greater.
In the verse following Jesus asks, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
The cross represents life to us, because of the resurrection of Christ, but to the crowd Jesus was addressing that day it was a symbol of death. They, like many of our brothers and sisters around the world knew that following Jesus could very well mean death to them. The fact that they were willing to remain faithful to His call in spite of the cost speaks volumes about the radical impact Jesus has on people.
I often wonder what would happen in America if following Christ became a crime punishable by death. While we enjoy the freedom to worship, this is still a reality for Christians in many nations today. The profound truth is that persecution produces purity, and purity births revival. No matter how hard the enemy tries, he cannot silence or defeat the blood of Christ!
We are living in a time predicted in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
While it is the love of God that draws men to repentance, I also believe a time of sifting in coming. We reap what we sow – good or bad – and a time of harvest is inevitable. The sheep will be separated from the goats.
In my lifetime I have seen the acceptance of Christianity in our culture greatly decline. Unfortunately many times the church has responded by shifting from preaching the cost Jesus proclaimed in Mark 8 to a message that focuses on salvation without repentance and transformation. This only results in a powerless church!
Jesus said we would do even greater works than He did. Can you imagine the impact the church (the body of Christ) would have if we sought to minister to the world the way Jesus did? Do we truly believe in the power of God to save the lost, heal the sick, raise the dead, deliver the captive? Are we fervently seeking Him to use US to continue the ministry of Christ?
I am challenged today by these verses to examine myself and ask, am I truly willing to take up my cross to follow Him? Am I willing to lay down my life; not just in death but in serving God and others? Why do I not see the greater works Jesus spoke of as fruit in my life?
My prayer today is that the resurrection power of Jesus would become so evident through His people that the lost would run to Him like the multitudes that followed Him in His time on Earth, and would be so convinced of the prize of Him that they (we) recognize that He is worth the cost!