Toward the end of Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks about obedience. He had been followed by people who made verbal profession of discipleship. They called him "Lord," which meant that they were calling him their master and were putting themselves forward as his servants. But they were disregarding his teaching. Jesus showed the impossibility of this intrinsic contradiction by asking pointedly: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (v. 46). In other words, Jesus cannot be our Lord without obedience; and if he is not our Lord, we do not belong to him. We are like the man whose house would be swept away by a flood.

The third part of Christ’s description of discipleship in Luke 9:23 is the command: "Follow me." We looked at this carefully earlier and do not need to repeat what was said. However, the challenge comes now in a slightly different way. Having spoken of self-denial and cross-bearing, which the first two points of this text present, we naturally find ourselves looking about for some motivation that will bring us to that kind of commitment.

The idea of a cross tells us more about offering our gifts back to God, for it indicates how cross-bearing is to be done and what it involves. Walter J. Chantry, whom I mentioned earlier, is good in presenting these demands. I draw on his outline.

Self-seeking is the opposite of self-denial, and the problem with self-seeking is that it has been the essence of sin from the beginning. It is what caused the fall of Satan. Satan said, "I want my way, and that means that I am going to displace God. I will rule the universe." God said that Satan would actually be brought low. Jesus said, "I will go down in self-denial. I will abase myself in order that others, those I love, might be lifted from sin to glory." As a result, God promised that Jesus Christ would be exalted. He would be given a name that is above every name, so that every tongue would confess that "Jesus is Lord."

Walter J. Chantry, pastor of a Reformed Baptist Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is an exception to this sad state, and he has written a powerful book about cross-bearing entitled The Shadow of the Cross: Studies in Self-Denial.1 At the beginning of this book he too notes today’s neglect of these essential gospel elements and searches for explanations.