Jesus never apologized for calling His disciples to a life of self-denial. It is interesting to see the way He handled this teaching with those who offered to follow him.
He promised homelessness. We read in Luke 9:57 of an individual who bragged that he would follow Jesus wherever He would go. But apparently he turned back when Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (9:58)
He promised broken relationships. Another man said he would go but needed to bury his father first. Jesus replied, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (9:60)
He promised separation and loneliness. A third would be disciple said, “Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at my house.” Jesus replied, “No man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (9:62)
It is obvious that Jesus will have no one among His followers who is wanting to put comfort, family ties or security in this world ahead of His Kingdom. Jesus is saying, in effect, “I offer you what I have… hardship, hunger, labor, loneliness, rejection, sweat, tears, and death. I am a stranger and a pilgrim in this world, and if you follow Me you’ll have to breakaway from the clinging attachments of this present life.”
The Gospels give another example. A rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus and asked what he would have to do to inherit the kingdom. Jesus replied simply, “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The young man walked away sad.
Jesus obviously loved him. It must have hurt to see the young man go. But in this case and in all the other similar stories, you never once see Jesus going after these would-be disciples. There is no effort to pacify them or modify and soften the uncompromising demands of the cross. It is either “give up everything and follow Me” or “don’t come at all.”
To all those who would follow Him, He gave the same basic message. Those who save their own lives will lose them-those who lose their lives for His sake will find them. The first shall be last and the last first.
There is no place in His band for those who are not willing to accept inconvenience, sufferings and uncertainty. This is still the price for following Christ today, just as there was back then.
I’m convinced the main reason why we are not impacting our generation for Christ is our refusal to be honest about Christianity. We have offered the world a gospel without sacrifice and a christ without suffering. We’ve done everything we can to apologize for Christ’s demands and explain them away. We’ve told people that Jesus didn’t really mean what He said… and they can have heaven without His cross.
The result is all around us. We have weak, defensive, shallow Christians whose faith can’t turn the next corner, let alone turn the world upside down. Although we have millions of books and more head knowledge than any generation in Christian history, we stand powerless and defeated and weighed down by our comfortable religion. I am not advocating some sort of weird aesthetic approach to Christianity but a letting go of those things which we are clinging to in this world that hinder us from being truly Christ-like. The world sees us taking comfort in the same “things” they do. Our comfort should only be found in Christ. When the wind howls, and the storm rages we should be as those stalwart Moravians, Jonathan Wesley sailed to America with, who, in the midst of the storm stood firm in the Peace of their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. By their testimony Jonathan Wesley came to know the Lord of Peace and by God’s grace impacted the world for Christ.