Taking Up the CrossLuke 9:23-26Theme: Self-denial.This week’s lessons teach us how to die to our selfishness so that we can live for Christ.
LessonThe 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. Knowing that the alternative is to lose our life or forfeit our very self helps. But the cost still seems high. In most cases, the only thing that will ultimately get us going along this path of self-denial and discipleship is following after Jesus, which means setting our eyes on him as he has gone before us.
Jesus is the model for our self-denial.
He is the image of cross-bearing.
Seeing this was the turning point in the life of Count Zinzendorf, the founder of the Moravian fellowships. In a little chapel near his estates in Europe, there was a remarkable picture of Jesus Christ. The artist was a true child of God, and he had painted love for Christ and the love of Christ into his portrait as few have done either before or since. Underneath it were the lines: “All this I did for thee; what has thou done for me?”
One day Zinzendorf entered the chapel and was arrested by the portrait. He recognized the love of Christ which had been painted into the face of the Master. He saw the pierced hands, the bleeding forehead, the wounded side. He read the couplet: “All this I did for thee; what hast thou done for me?” Gradually a new revelation of the claim of Christ upon his life came on him. He was unable to move. Hours passed. As the day waned the lingering rays of sunlight fell upon the bowed form of the young nobleman who was now weeping out his devotion to him whose love had conquered his heart. Zinzendorf left that chapel a changed man. And he went to work for Christ through the Moravians, whose missionary interests and Christ-like service have encircled the globe.
That is what moves a person to follow after Jesus in the path of denial. It is what moves one to be a Christian in the first place – not the promise of rewards, though there are rewards, nor an escape from hell, though following after Christ does mean deliverance from hell’s terrors. What moves one to be a Christian is the love of Jesus, for the sake of which he endured the cross.
Those who have been won by that love will not allow anything to keep them from Jesus.
They are the ones who “make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). Study Questions
What is the only thing that will ultimately get us going on the path of discipleship?
What is implied by Jesus’ term “a narrow door”? By means of contrast, how would you describe a “wide door”?
Further StudyMeditate on Luke 9:22-30.
PrayerOur Father, we live such paltry lives. We think of Christianity on such a low level. We reduce it to mere intellectual assent, or we restrict it to some kind of paltry obedience to a minimal ethical standard. And we come to your Word, and we see that you do just the opposite as you present the gospel to us. You cause us to stretch our minds and go beyond anything we could possibly imagine as we strive to do that which is the hardest thing in life for human beings–yes, on the one hand, death to self, but resurrection life on the other. Our Father, there is nothing that would ever lead us to do that but the power and example of our Lord Himself. And we pray that you would use that example and work in that power to accomplish precisely that in many lives in our own time for the sake of the gospel and the glory of Jesus Christ. Amen and amen.