By Todd Pekel


The cost of discipleship has proven too high for some would be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that neither you nor I be named among them.

Luke 9:23:
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

We live in a society, indeed a world that is dedicated to the pursuit of individual freedom and expression of self above everything else. In fact, the generation that now lives upon the face of the earth could well be labeled the "me first" generation. Moreover, this generation of "me first" has reached the four-corners of the globe through mass marketing. Advertisers continually pummel us with messages of self-expression and advice on how to best express our true selves. Rebellion and non-conformity are now the norm, in a world that has no norms. Go into any bookstore and see the unending shelves of "self-help" books: books of advice on building self-esteem; how to transform yourself into someone you're not; someone you think you want to be; someone you think you ought to be. Self-image, self-help, self-esteem, self-love, etc., etc., me, me, me.

One needn't look past the prophet Jeremiah to see that the way of man is not in himself.

Jeremiah 10:23:
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Indeed our salvation and calling have nothing to do with our "self."

Ephesians 2:8:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

1 Thessalonians 2:12:
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Again this has nothing to do with self. God called us. He moved.

From the time a man is born, he is bombarded with worldly messages about "self." Yet the Word of God, spoken from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, tells us that we must deny our "self" if we are to follow him.

Luke 9:23:
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Let's take a look at our text. "If any man will come after me." The Lord in effect is exhorting us to "make up our mind." A firm decision on the part of a disciple is required. Yes, salvation is free, but as we will see, there is a cost to discipleship, to being a follower of Jesus Christ.

Just before he died, Joshua, the prophet who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, had them make a firm decision concerning whom they would follow.

Joshua 24:15:
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Our discipleship begins with a firm decision, commitment if you will, to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Anything else and our discipleship will fall short. Paul is a fine example of a Christian who made a firm decision to follow after the Lord.

Acts 20:24:
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul's witness brought Felix to the point of making a firm decision. However, the decision Felix made was essentially not to decide.

Acts 24:25:
And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

Jesus Christ didn't say, "When you have a convenient season, follow me." Jesus Christ wants a firm decision. Following Jesus is not a matter of convenience, but one of conviction.

When Paul preached to King Agrippa, the king answered that Paul had "almost persuaded him to be a Christian." Almost isn't good enough. It never is. Jesus Christ said, "Come."

The next action on the road of discipleship is self-denial. Jesus Christ said, "Let him deny himself." This is exactly opposite of what we are taught by the world. Remember the "me first" attitude? We as Christians and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are to "deny ourselves."

This portion of discipleship is perhaps the hardest part for people in their walk with God. It needn't be. Once again the Lord Jesus Christ gives us the answer.

Matthew 6:33a:
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness....

Again we have an example in the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. When we wholeheartedly seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, we effectively deny ourselves.

Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

It was no longer Paul's life, or Paul's way. In order to deny one's self, we have to have a thorough understanding of the Grace of God. In fact it is the Grace of God that teaches us to deny those things that get in the way of our disciplined walk, our discipleship.

Titus 2:11-12:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

God doesn't want dead animal sacrifices. He has done away with them. He now requires living sacrifices.

Romans 12:1:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

It is reasonable service because of the mercy that has been extended unto us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:4:
Therefore only to the extent that we deny our self can we truly live for Jesus Christ. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Having been buried with him we are exhorted to walk in newness of life. In so doing we will deny our self and become a living sacrifice.

When self-denial replaces self-indulgence and self-sacrifice replaces self-glory, we are well on our way to following the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:3:
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Again in our text we are told that a man must "take up his cross daily." Jesus Christ never promised the proverbial rose garden. In fact he tells us to take his yoke upon us to learn of him.

Matthew 11:29-30:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The one who tasted death and suffered for every man exhorts us to be yoked to him. He never promised that living for him would be an easy road to travel, but he did promise that being yoked to him we would find rest for our souls. In fact, while many Christians commit themselves to the pursuit of comfortable lives with minimal amount of interference from the outside world, they deny themselves the rewards that are to come from a disciplined walk with the Lord here in this life.

1 Peter 4:16:
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf,

2 Timothy 3:12:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

I remember the first time this verse ever meant anything to me. I was reading a book by Brother Andrew entitled "God's Smuggler," and in it he was relating a story of his attending a secret church meeting in a then-Eastern Bloc country. One of those Christians present who had suffered greatly for his faith asked him what people in the West did with this verse. I felt shame as I read that incident because my idea of suffering persecution as a Christian up until that point meant that I didn't get a front row parking space or that when I took a taxi it wasn't a big Mercedes.

Part of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ upon the cross was to redeem unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.

Titus 2:14:
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Part of taking up our cross is the doing of good works. That is what we have been called to do. Jesus Christ went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed of the devil.

Acts 10:38:
How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

We too are to do good works.

Ephesians 2:10:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,

It is by our works that we show our faith because faith without works is dead.

James 2:17:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

As we live by faith, we will show that Jesus Christ is our Lord. We will witness to our discipleship, that is, our disciplined walk with him. After all, according to what Jesus Christ said, we are to "follow him." This requires a wholehearted commitment.

1 Peter 2:21-24:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

If we are to follow Jesus, be a disciplined one of Christ, then following him will cost us nothing less than our self, our ego, our foolish and selfish pride.

2 Corinthians 3:5:
Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

Indeed, Jesus said without him we can do nothing.

John 15:5:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

We are exhorted again and again in the Scriptures to seek the things above, to set our minds on heavenly, not worldly things. If we are to follow Jesus we must be so minded. After all, Jesus sought not his own will.

John 5:30:
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Now the words spoken by the Apostle Paul make sense in light of his discipleship.

1 Corinthians 15:31:
I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

Indeed, Paul was a man who took up his cross daily.

Jesus said "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." He goes on to explain what would happen if we don't.

Luke 9:24:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

Yes, salvation is a free gift, but the cost of discipleship, of being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ will cost us our lives, that is, our very "selves." Not following Jesus Christ, however, costs a whole lot more. Amen.