23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23–26, NKJV).
Commitment. Jesus had it and was committed to doing the Father’s will to the point of death (“lifted up” John 8:28-29). Early Christians had it, losing their lives rather than denying the Lord (Acts 7:59-60; 26:10). Christians who faced impending suffering were exhorted by Christ to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). This directive helps us understand what it means to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Even life itself must not be more precious to us than Jesus and doing His will. There is no benefit in gaining the whole world and forfeiting souls. Commitment to Christ eliminates being ashamed of Him and His words. We express faith that overcomes the world by our commitment to Christ (1 John 5:4). Commitment to Christ takes precedence over everyone and everything in the life of a disciple. May it be so with us today and each day that follows.
The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge. (Ruth 2:12, NKJV)
Ruth (the young Moabite widow whose loyalty to her widowed mother-in-law Naomi is memorialized in the book of Ruth) is acknowledged and blessed by Boaz, a wealthy landowner, and kinsman of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech. Ruth had pledged faithfulness to Naomi and Naomi’s God, even when she could have stayed in her homeland where family and familiarity would have (Ruth 1:16). Ruth clung to Naomi when returning to her family would have brought her familiarity and security. And so, Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. There, Ruth joined the gleaners during barley harvest to gather leftover grain to feed herself and Naomi. Upon seeing Ruth’s self-sacrificing devotion and diligence, Boaz showed her great kindness. Indeed God was blessing her (and Naomi) for her labor of faith. Eventually, Boaz and Ruth married and became the great-grandparents of David, king of Israel. Thus, a Moabitess of courageous faith and humble service is in the ancestral lineage of the Messiah. The Lord rewarded her work, not because Ruth earned her way into God’s favor, but because God blesses faith that graciously serves others (in this case, Naomi). God still rewards the work of faith, not because we deserve the reward, but because our faith relies upon His grace to bless us with His salvation (Rom. 5:1-2; Jas. 2:14-24; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29, NKJV)
Jesus had previously explained the kingdom of God is not entered by the power of money and human expectations, but by the power of God (Matthew 19:23-26). After assuring the apostles of their reward of service in the kingdom, Jesus went on to explain how kingdom entrance requires sacrifice and devotion by everyone who wants kingdom citizenship (19:29). One is not entitled to kingdom citizenship who does not enter it correctly. I cannot simply enter the kingdom by expecting citizenship. Everyone who wants to be in the kingdom of God must leave behind (forsake, yield up, let go) everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus said. Whether it is possessions or people, Christ demands first place in our hearts and lives or we will not be regenerated (born again, saved, and conveyed into the kingdom, cf. Luke 14:33, 26; Colossians 1:13-14). Many spiritual blessings accrue here and now to the disciple of Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And finally, the inheritance of eternal life is the faithful Christian’s reward (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Blessings from heaven belong to all who submit to the will of Jesus (Acts 3:19). Every attempt to enter God’s kingdom without doing the will of God will fail (Matthew 7:21).
1 To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. 3 Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; Let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause. (Psalm 25:1–3, NKJV)
David praised God with his whole being. God, who breathed into man the breath of life, is the one to whom we (like David) now present our entire being, both to praise Him, and to devote ourselves to His purposes. Faith in God compels us to offer our lives to Him. We trust Him with our lives, as we give ourselves to serving His purposes. God assures us that our faith is the victory that overcomes the world and its enemies of righteousness (1 John 5:4). Although life brings trials, they are only temporary. We keep our hope set on the Lord, and wait on His justice (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3-8). The enemies of holiness will be confounded, and reduced to shame, for fighting against God and His people. But, those who live by faith will not be brought to shame, but to eternal glory.
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24, NKJV)
Divided loyalty dooms one to failure. Jesus laid down this simple, yet profound principle, which plays out in our lives every day. We establish priorities that reflect our values, our motives, our goals, and our aspirations. We will either serve the spiritual, or the material. We will either serve God, or riches. Attempts to serve both God and the world lead to spiritual demise. Double-mindedness prevents effective faith and wisdom (Jas. 1:5-8). Christians cannot successfully live by faith with one foot in the world, and one foot in the church. “Limping between the two sides” will never lead to heaven (1 Kings 18:21). Disciples of Jesus must wake up from spiritual apathy, clean up lives that have been defiled by sin, and grow up in Christ by abandoning every vestige of the flesh (Rom. 13:11-14). Love and serve the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). Commit yourself to being God’s servant every day, with all your being.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NKJV)
Many want to follow Jesus until they learn of the sacrifice He requires. Then, many turn away (John 6:60, 66). Does Jesus really expect those who follow Him to hold hatred in their hearts for their closest family members? No, Jesus is not demanding hatred as a requirement for coming to Him. Jesus is demanding that we love all these, including our own lives, less than we love Him. This is a repetition of what Jesus taught in Luke 12:49-53, where “father will be divided against son and son against father…” Christ must be your preeminent priority, including your family and yourself, otherwise, you cannot be His disciple. That is what Jesus said. This kind of devotion to Jesus demands the kind of sacrifice that few possess. Perhaps this is why Jesus said there are many who seek to enter the narrow gate that leads to life, but only few who find it (Lk. 13:23-24; Matt. 7:13-14). When you must choose between pleasing your family member or pleasing Jesus, who do you choose? Following Jesus comes at a price. Count the cost, and pay the price of discipleship.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, ESV)
Years ago CBS radio advertised their NFL broadcasts with sports announcer Greg Gumble defining the sports fan’s attitude toward football. He said the true fan never complains about the amount of football games; He is anticipating and ready for the action. Then, he said the true fan never gets enough; he always wants more. Gumble reminded his audience not to forget that “fan” is short for “fanatic”, and that’s what makes a true football fan. Christians can learn something from his analysis that a fan is an enthusiast or devotee. We must be devoted enthusiasts for Christ. But, unlike football fans, we must be participants, not spectators. So, get in the game. Live by faith every single day. As a football fan, you live to see your team win. As a Christian, live with complete devotion to Jesus Christ so that others see Jesus in you.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, NKJV)
Too often we have an attitude that says, “Here am I…send someone else!” Isaiah’s ready faith to volunteer to speak for God to His wayward people arouses our zeal to do the same. We must be ready and willing to accomplish God’s purposes. You can have this attitude in your marriage, devoting yourself to be a loving husband or a respectful wife. Like Isaiah, if you are sent to preach the word of God, do so with diligent, enduring faith. If you lead God’s people as an elder, faithfully attend to your stewardship to the glory of God. God wants willing servants. Devote yourself to greater zeal in the Lord’s service. Isaiah is a great example to follow.