Scripture Reading: Exodus 37:1-38:31 / Mark 8:14-9:1 / Proverbs 6:1-11
The economy of the United States has undergone tremendous changes since I graduated high school. In 1977, The Federal Debt was $706,400,000,000 (billion). Today the Federal Debt is $17,268,697,697,000 (trillion). Spending has spun out of control and prices have increased dramatically. For instance, postage stamps were .13 and bread was .32. A gallon of milk averaged 1.44 and a gallon of gas was only .77! New cars averaged $4,317 and a new house cost $55,473.00.
Still, the United States is very affluent and our lifestyle is immaculate compared to people in other countries. We have the best and the most of the world’s luxuries. Americans do not deny themselves the finer things in life even though the price tag may be high or more than they can afford. In 1977, the credit card debt of all Americans was $39 billion, in 2012, the credit card debt was $845 billion.
We struggle with undisciplined lives and saying “no” to our desires. This is not only a struggle for Americans; every person wrestles with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Jesus addresses this “live for self” lust and pride when it comes to following Him. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Following Christ is not a life of self-denial but a life of denying self. It’s not a matter of giving up or denying “things” but denying and surrendering our will to Him… our plans for His plans and our lives to His control. Nothing says denial like a “cross”. The disciples knew that a cross was an instrument of shame, torture and death. When a person took up a cross, he was carrying the instrument of his own death. Following Christ meant to give up your life entirely… not part of it but all of it.
So what does the life of denial and cross bearing look like? When you see others attain goals you fail to reach and see others receive rewards and recognitions you would like to have without being envious… When you share your faith knowing that you may be insulted or put down… When you choose to serve your spouse or your children and put their needs ahead of yours… that’s dying to yourself.
When you can accept interruptions that God places in your schedule and patiently bear with irritations… When you tell the truth, even at personal expense… When you are content to let God settle the score and content to wait for your reward in heaven… that’s bearing your cross.
Jesus made abundant and eternal life possible because He humbled Himself, left heaven, was born into a world of sin, submitted His will to the Father and died upon a cross for our redemption. He is the supreme example of denying self and bearing His cross. So, what is the cost of discipleship and following Him? The price tag hasn’t changed…it will cost you your very life.