(This is a follow-up to my post The Way and the Life).
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mat. 16: 24)
There are three parts in the above verse that the Lord Jesus requires of us when we embark on following Him:
Deny One’s Self
Take up Our Cross
Summing up these three, we get the word SACRIFICE. Sacrifice. This is the essence of Christ’s calling of us: to willingly lay down ourselves on the altar of sacrifice and offer our lives in the service of the Lord, pleasing and glorifying Him.
Now, a sacrifice that is laid down on the altar doesn’t flail, fight or kick to escape its fate, which, unfortunately, are sometimes our reactions when we are called to obey and serve. The Lord Jesus Himself showed us how to humbly accept the will of God and carry out His purposes with a willing heart.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. (Is. 53: 7)
Only when we learn to surender our will to the will of God and humbly obey His commands, calling and leading, do we start to learn to truly follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
Denying One’s Self
Learning to die to our selfish desires, wants, wills, dreams, plans is what the Lord requires of us. He wants us to deny ourselves of these and put His heart’s desire, will, plans and purposes in our lives of utmost importance. I have learned that resisting His will and insisting on ours doesn’t only rob us of our peace, but it also brings undesirable consequences.
In late 2008, my husband wanted to buy a luxury SUV. I was all against it. At that time by the grace of God, I was again doing my best to recover from the relapse of my illness that happened a few months after I gave birth to our son. I wanted us to concentrate in imploring the Lord for my complete healing, and not on desiring luxury possessions. Also, we already had two vans, which were more than enough for our small family. I believed that it wasn’t what the Lord wanted us to do. I believed that we should live simple lives and not be tempted to lavish ourselves with so much luxury.
He reasoned that it wouldn’t be a brand-new one, but slightly-used. But for me, whether brand-new or slightly-used, it was still too expensive, and thus, a luxury. He insisted on it. And I did my best to explain, with tears, stand my ground and hold on to the Lord’s teachings. I reminded him these precious verses, warnings from the apostle John:
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not the of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
Most unfortunately, the discussion turned into an emotionally-charged argument. That night, I really believed that was the end of the matter. But a few days later, he drove home a sleek, white BMW SUV. Though my heart was sad, I didn’t argue anymore – it would have been in vain.
In 2009, the great flood came. The BMW SUV was parked in our garage. It was submerged in muddy floodwaters. When the waters subsided, and the more urgent matters attended to, it was finally towed to the repair shop. Ever since it left our house that day up until now, it has not returned. Spare parts for it are not only expensive, they’re also hard to find. (No, it wasn’t covered by insurance that has “Acts of God” clause).
It’s been almost two years and the lesson was in no way missed by my constantly-searched heart: to follow the Lord wholly, we must deny ourselves of worldly lusts and wants. Sometimes, we cannot discern our hearts’ desires for what they truly are: lusts that feed our desire for “pride of life”.
Taking Up Our Cross
Following the Lord Jesus Christ won’t turn out to be a leisurely walk along a posh avenue, but a narrow road with our crosses on our backs. The crosses we were made to carry are sometimes light and sometimes heavy. This could be the cross of persecution, the cross of fiery trials, or the cross of preaching the Gospel no matter what the cost.
Beloved and Honorable Pastor Evangelist Wilde E. Almeda, the beloved founder and leader of the Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, knew the cost of following the Lord. In 2000, he, together with 12 prayer warriors, heeded the call of God in bringing the Gospel to the mountains of Jolo, Sulu in the island of Mindanao. This was not an ordinary mountain to climb nor ordinary people to reach out to, for it was the camp of the Abu Sayyaf where they were keeping their hostages.
Nevertheless, after fasting for 40 days, the beloved evangelist left the comforts of his pulpit and entered the camp of the Abu Sayyaf – a truly dangerous mission. He preached the Gospel to the Abu Sayyaf men and prayed for the sick hostages and for their safe and immediate release. It was a staggeringly victorious peace mission, but one that the beloved pastor, his dear family, and the whole Church, greatly suffered for.
I believe now as I’m writing this, that the cost of following Christ may mean to lay down one’s life for the sake of the Gospel.
While we continually learn to deny ourselves and carry our crosses, we follow the Lord wherever He leads. Following means obeying specifically His instructions: what He purposes for us to do and where He sends us to.
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