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.

In last week’s study I wrote that there is a fatal flaw in the professing church today, a lack of true discipleship. Discipleship is talked about, of course. There are scores of books about it, particularly about what is called "discipling" other people. Words are not the problem. It is the lack of the thing itself. But what are we to say about this next theme: the need for self-denial, expressed as "taking up the cross"? In this area it is not only the thing that is lacking. It is an area about which we do not even speak.

In the last years of the seventeenth century a great French aristocrat wrote a book on discipleship that has become a classic in this field. At one time the book was publicly burned in France. Yet it has also been received by many millions of Christians who have confessed it to be one of the most helpful books ever written. It was greatly loved by Fenelon, Count Zinzendorf, John Wesley, and Hudson Taylor. This aristocrat was a woman, one of the best-known women in church history. Her name: Madame Jeanne Guyon.

The third element in following Christ is submission. In one of Jesus’ most important sayings about discipleship, the Lord pictures discipleship as putting on a yoke. This suggests a number of things, but chiefly it suggests submission to Christ for work assigned. It is the picture of an animal yoked to others as well as to a farm implement for labor.

The first element in following Christ is obedience. Obedience is an unpopular concept today, which we betray by our frequent use of a phrase like "blind obedience" meaning mindless adherence to authority. We think of it as enemy soldiers blindly carrying out the inhuman orders of an evil commander. So when we come to a phrase like "follow me," we naturally think of it as an invitation and conform our evangelism to that pattern.