A life spent for the King (Matthew 16:24)

Life can only be spent. Not one second can be saved or stored up for later, but every second must be spent. Once gone, time can never be recovered. Therefore, the one who would steward his time well spends his hours and minutes wisely and carefully. The issue for every person thus becomes, “How shall my life be spent?” What will be my legacy? How will my life be evaluated when I am gone, and my life is over?

In a brief section of Scripture in Matthew 16:24-27, Jesus declares to all His would-be disciples how to spend their lives for the highest possible purpose.

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus lays out for His would-be disciples the “terms of engagement.”

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

If you wish to follow Jesus, you must commit your whole being for as long as you live.

Deny himself” – My will and my ambitions have been placed permanently underneath Jesus’ will and His purposes (John 3:30). I have become a bondservant of Jesus. I have “denied” Roy Britton in the sense that he now exists only in reference to Jesus Christ. This is what it means to deny oneself.

Take up his cross” – My service to Jesus is service that only ends at my death. In the Roman Empire, when a person was convicted of a crime and thus took up his cross, he knew his life was over. The cross was an instrument of death, and the Roman cross never failed to execute its victim. The one who took up his cross knew he would soon be taken down dead from that cross.

Now Jesus calls anyone who wishes to be His disciple to take up his own cross. Thus, all disciples of Jesus are being crucified (Gal. 2:20). They no longer live, but Christ lives in them. Suffering for Christ, service to Christ, and sacrifice for Christ are accepted as expected experiences of the cross I carry. Having taken up my cross, Roy Britton has already died (Colossians 3:3), and now my crucified life is entirely poured out for Christ.

Now the disciple of Jesus consciously carries his own cross to identify with Jesus. I have met Jesus, and my life will be poured out for Him. I carry my cross so that others may know that Jesus is my Lord and Master. My life is not my own, but rather I have become a living sacrifice. Each day I remember that I am carrying my cross (Luke 9:23) so that others may see the glory and the worth of Christ.

Follow Me.” – The preceding steps must culminate in the obedience of following. The one who has denied himself proves that denial by following Jesus. The one who has taken up his cross to bear the reproaches of Jesus until death, confirms the burden he is bearing by his obedience to the Lord Jesus in all things. Wherever Christ leads me, there I willingly go.

Spending your life in service and submission to the Lord Jesus is how you spend your life for the highest possible good. But even the stated desire to live this way requires passing an entrance exam. Will you deny yourself and will you take up your cross and will you follow Jesus in obedience?

SDG                 rmb                 10/26/2021                 #443

The King brings a sword (Matthew 10:34-39)

            There are some who imagine that Jesus was merely a moral teacher, an innocuous Rabbi who taught His disciples some general principles for peaceful living. This mythological Messiah, however, exists nowhere in history and certainly does not exist in the pages of Scripture. On every page of the gospel record in the New Testament we see Jesus the Messiah as He really is, the incarnate Son of God and the conquering King who has come from heaven to begin bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. With the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the invasion has begun, and King Jesus is the one who is leading the charge.

            The gospel of Matthew is the story of Jesus’ life that most emphasizes His kingly rule. Matthew presents Jesus as Israel’s long-awaited King, the one who will reign as the great Son of David. In Matthew 10, Jesus begins to summon His troops, first by calling the Twelve Apostles, and then by describing the battle conditions for the rest of His disciples whom He will call during the gospel age. In the course of His charge to His troops, Jesus lays out for His would-be disciples the conflict they will encounter and the commitment that He demands.

  • “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (10:34).” There cannot be peace when a war is being waged. As long as Satan remains the god of this age and as long as evil and sin abound, there can be no real peace on earth. Jesus has come to begin the liberation of the captives and of the oppressed (Luke 4:18) and His disciples must understand that this war of liberation will involve conflict and casualties.
  • Enemies will be those of one’s own household (10:35-36). In this spiritual war for souls, the dividing line between Christ and His enemies may cut right through the natural family unit. Jesus is warning His disciples of this in advance so they will not be surprised when it occurs. Throughout the church age, and especially now in our own day as those from false religions come to Christ, Jesus’ words have proven painfully true. In many cases, the first and most painful persecution comes from a believer’s natural family.
  • Those who value any natural relationship more than they love Jesus “are not worthy” of Jesus (10:37). Jesus makes clear that His disciples must love Him above even the most precious natural relationships. (See Luke 14:26-27; 1 Peter 1:8; Matthew 22:36-38.) Jesus the King demands from His disciples’ supreme allegiance to Him, an allegiance that is founded on His goodness and righteousness and faithfulness. This supreme love for Jesus should be manifested in the lives of His disciples. For example, is it evident that you love Jesus more than son or daughter?
  • And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me (10:38).” The meaning of this demand from the King is daunting. During the Roman Empire, the cross was the common instrument of execution. Therefore, for someone to “take his cross” meant that the person was committed to a course of action, even though that course of action meant their death. In light of this, we can see that Jesus is calling His disciples to follow Him to their death. As the cross, once taken up, is not released until death, so the disciple, having committed to Christ, will follow Him until his death. (See Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21.) When the disciple “takes his cross,” he has effectively surrendered his life to Jesus and has made the commitment to follow Jesus no matter where that leads or what that involves. Our cross, then, is the commitment to accept all the rigors of the battle as the cost of following Jesus. And to not take His cross is to render a person not worthy of Jesus, which must mean that person is not saved by Jesus. Daunting words, indeed!
  • “. . . whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (10:39).” Jesus concludes this part of His martial call with a demand for commitment. If you would follow the King, then He demands that you commit your life to Him. There is a choice that every would-be disciple must make: will you lose your life to Jesus, so as to gain an eternal reward, or will you spend your life on anything else and so forfeit all of the Lord’s blessing forever? For those who will join the King in His gospel mission, “the Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).”

SDG                 rmb                 10/14/2020