Night-Whisper | TRUST
“If anyone 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 will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. NKJV
Jesus here speaks of two desires.
The first desire is to follow Him, to walk behind Him, to place our feet in His footsteps, to go where He is going, to model Him, to do the works of God, to follow Him. Note however, that Jesus also says that if you want to come after Him in this way that there is a double price tag on that privilege.
The first price is that of self-denial. In brief, this denial is in effect a ‘triple morning cock-crowing, saying, declaring, announcing to the morning madness of all our selfishness that, “Most definitely, absolutely and utterly, I am not my own!” This self-denial then acts vehemently toward one’s own body, soul and spirit and brings the whole into subjection saying, “I am a servant of the Master and whether loneliness or lack, whether misunderstanding or pain, whether sword or nakedness all become part of God’s providential package for me, even so, I shall follow Him.” This self-denial then takes up the ‘cross’ of those decisions, the second price tag, and follows on after Christ. Jesus says that such a soul is not only saved but shall find life, even a found and fulfilling life in following hard after Him in self-denying, cross-carrying foolishness.
The second desire which Jesus talks of, is the desire to save one’s own life. That is, to fulfill oneself and to protect oneself, to provide for oneself and to comfort oneself. Such a desire to save one’s life, says Jesus, is a but a self-serving doom and an un-regaining and total loss.
A snake once said to me, “If you have not prepared for your own financial future then that’s your stupidity and not my responsibility.” A brood of vipers later hissed all over me and rattled, “No health cover, no life cover, no pension plan, no home, no wages, no temporal inheritance, no wonder you’re a mess!” Me, a mess? Yes indeed, I must confess, that the older I get, the more I regret denying myself and following Jesus. I must confess, the more I compare the life He has given me (or I have chosen, if you wish) with the life I see in settled others, the more I envy them. I do not envy the wicked, no, do not misunderstand me, I envy the saints who have preserved their life in property and pension, in life cover and laid up inheritances. The autumn of old age which we now all sniff on the Northern wind, approaches them, you see, and they are prepared. The mortgage is paid, the pension plans are plump, and the winter night may draw in as it will to do its worst. Meanwhile, that same North wind brings for me a fear of the future and it covers my faith with clouds, and casts a long cold shadow upon my ‘following’ condition. Maybe I have denied myself too much and in denying myself I have denied others who might rely on me. O sad condition. Has Jesus ticked me? Has He been telling ‘porky pies?’ Have I taken His words to literally and far too seriously?
I wonder if Stephen, that first recorded Christian martyr should have kept his mouth shut? I mean, being so stoned, how could he continue to keep down a good and well-paying job? What parents and siblings did he leave behind, who had to scrape together those unnecessary funeral expenses and then face the future alone? I wonder if the lonely and abandoned felt missionary kid now hates God all the more because of his self-denying parents? Oh, and that imprisoned pastor’s wife, clutching that old cold pillow in her half empty bed, does she wish for a little less self-denial in the part of her big mouthed husband? Yes, it seems to me that the self-denial which Jesus speaks of, you know, the one that leads to a cross of death, not only can harm ourselves but even crucify the future of those we love and of those loved ones who maybe now have come to despise our selfish-self-denial of taking up the cross of Christ.
Maybe though, you can have your cake and eat it? Maybe you can make all temporal preparations for preservation of this passing temporal life and then later deny yourself? After all, Peter, despite his prolonged absence from earthly business and nibbling on his upside down cake, probably left a thriving fishing enterprise to his boys (what were their names again?) Ooh, and also maybe a house to his once accompanying wandering wife and mother in law. Whereas Paul, that overt self-denier, left no offspring, no money, no lands, and nothing but the New Testament Church. What good was that to his earthly family. (Who were they again?)
It has been my observation that there a few saints who seemingly can have their cake and eat it. A closer look shows me that either they are living off their daddies old and stolen goods, have invested and gambled well, or, they have simply gotten a good job in the religious industry. No, it would appear that Jesus offers no cake to any who follow Him. Just a cross and a cross that gets heavier as the day draws on to its end.
Now then, some of you reading this will say, “Thank God I am not ‘called’ to live a life like that!” And I will say to you, “What snake told you that?” Who lied to you about these words? I tell you, if you are not following Christ, you do not belong to Him! Yes, and if you do truly belong to Him, then these words are for you. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him. There is no cake when following Christ! Just a cross.
As for me, though the church should provide for its ministers and double provide for the servants of the Word, I will not lean on that Pharaoh and have his sharp stick pierce my grasping palm. Though Caesar may have promised to cosset me from cradle to grave, providing I have paid my dues of course, I will not put my hope and that old hag. Though my leapfrog family should be wiser and ‘better off’ than me, they shall not be the hope and the sustenance of my old age. No, this failing trinity cannot replace the Spirit of God. My declaration and covenant to day then is this,
“Let God be God and every man a liar! I will follow Him no matter what, daily counting the cost and daily taking up the cross. The God of my youth and of my early vigor shall be the God of my old age and of my shot-small measured jigger.”
This is my declaration and my covenant. What’s yours?
Listen: Look! You are trusting in the staff of this broken reed, Egypt, on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. (Isaiah 36:6 NKJV.)
Pray: Though Wesley, that brand plucked from the burning, would burn down most of the present monstrosities of his denomination, the current Methodist covenant prayer is most profound. Dare you pray it from your heart?
The Methodist Covenant Prayer
I am no longer my own but Yours.
Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whom You will;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be employed for You or laid aside for You,
Exalted for You or brought low for You.
Let me be full, let me be empty,
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
To Your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.