How many kinds of Christians are there? The modern church has found different labels and classifications for them. Some churches divide them into the active and inactive. Can a person be a Christian and be inactive? Some divide then into the spiritual and the carnal. By carnal they mean those who are still living under the control of the old nature. Can a person be a Christian and still live under the control of the old nature? Still others divide them into the fully committed and the uncommitted.
Before we allow ourselves to be so classified we need to hear the words of our Lord again. Jesus seemed to recognize only one kind of Christian the fully committed. After He had announced to the disciples that He was moving toward an inevitable rejection by the Jewish leaders and certain shameful death, He made His call for full commitment. No words our Lord ever spoke are more important to us than these. We do not have to wonder about what the Lord desires from us He has told us.
I. Full Commitment The Requirement These words were spoken to the disciples and to the crowd. They make clear what is required to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We must be clear about these words. All true Christians are disciples. Discipleship is not something you may choose to add once you have become a Christian. These are not words for just those who decide to give something extra in the Christian life. They are what the Lord asks of all who ''would come after me". This is just another way to say "Be my disciple".
A. Full commitment requires denial of self. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself."
These words of our Lord are sometimes misunderstood. To deny self is not go give up things. Some have denied themselves some pleasure and called it denying self. To deny self is to do to yourself what Simon Peter did to Jesus. In the moment of crises, Peter denied His Lord; He denied that he had ever known him, denied that he had any re¬lationship with Jesus.
For us to deny self is for us to refuse to depend upon ourselves. It is to turn our back upon what self can do and to depend upon what Christ can do. This is true with reference to salvation and the living of the Christian life. You must deny self before you can ever trust in Christ alone for salvation. You must deny self before you can ever lean upon Him for wisdom and strength to live the Christian life.
This sounds simple, but anyone who has done it knows that it is not easy. We have a selfish inclination toward depending on ourselves. We want to work things out for ourselves.
To deny self is to give up control of self. Each of us was born with certain fleshly desires which tend to control our lives. They will dominate us. When we deny self we die to those desires, and give over the control of our lives to Jesus Christ. You cannot be His disciple unless you give Him the control of your life.
B. Full commitment requires bearing a cross. "Take up his cross daily". You will notice that each person has "his" cross to bear. We do not bear the cross of Jesus, but our own cross.
This cross has nothing to do with the unnatural burdens and difficulties that life may bring to us. Arthritis is painful, but it is not a cross. A physical problem may be painful but it is not the cross that Jesus calls us to bear.
The ''cross'' was well known to Jesus and his disciples. William Barclay indicates that when Jesus was just a boy, a whole company of people were crucified by the Romans near Nazareth for their participation in a rebellion. Criminals died on crosses.
Jesus had just warned his disciples that He would be "rejected" and "killed" like a criminal. If they were to be His followers they must be willing to share with Him in His affliction. They must be ready to be rejected and killed with Him. So to bear a cross is to make an unconditional, full commitment of life to Jesus. We must be aware that the world has not really changed its mind about Jesus. They still reject those who follow Him.
This is the kind of commitment that a soldier makes in the time of war. His commit¬ment is that he will die, if it is necessary, for his country. He will even leave it up to his commanding officer to decide if the risking of life is necessary. He gives up all rights to his life. However, sometimes this is done under constraint for he is drafted, but with the disciple it is different. He does it voluntarily.
This is the lifestyle of the disciple. While "take up" calls for it to be done, "once for all", Jesus added "daily" to indicate that it is never completed.
I have struggled with this word of our Lord. What does this mean to you or a business man, or a student, or a housewife? It is clear that you live all of your life under the Lordship of Christ. If a choice has to be made between success in your business, and loyalty to Christ, you are loyal to Christ. You are ready to be obedient to Him in everything. You cannot isolate any part of life and reserve that for your self. You cannot limit your obedience.
C. Full commitment requires continued fellowship. ''Follow me''. This is yet another way of offering Him control;wherever He leads, you go. His way of life becomes your way of life. His values become your values. His activities became your activities. You follow Him: join Him in the way of life.
This is what Christian commitment means. This is what is required of us.
II. The Full Commitment The Reason The Lord demonstrates that this is a reasonable demand. He does it primarily in a negative fashion by indicating the consequence of not making the full commitment. Each of the verses that follow begin with "for" and thus set forth the reasons.
A. Full commitment is the one way to find a full and meaningful life. ''For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, not whoever loses his life for me will save it". The opposite of denying self is to seek to save self. To deny self is to lose oneself for the sake of Christ.
This is based upon a fundamental truth about human life. You were created for Christ. You were created to live a life of obedience for His glory. It is only when man does this that he begins to experience what the Creator had in mind when He created human life. The person who chooses to live for self will never find the fullness of life.
Jesus emphasizes this with the familiar rhetorical overture. "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" The world of things can never make life meaningful. Only a right relationship with God can do that ¬and there must be a full commitment before there can be a right relationship with Him.
B. Full commitment is the only way to be accented by Christ. "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father out of the holy angels." When you are in a world that nails Jesus to a cross, there is a strong tendency to be ashamed of Him. When you are in a world that questions and contradicts His teachings, there is a temptation to be ashamed of His words. But the only ones our Lord will receive into His glory on the Day of Judgment will be those that have been openly, unashamedly identified with Him. They are those who have been more concerned about His opinion than the opinion of the world.
If only those who have been fully committed will be accepted by Christ, then full commitment makes sense. Our world keeps forgetting that we must all stand before the judgment of God. We keep forgetting that all of this is temporary. We keep forgetting that God has the last word.
CONCLUSION: Does this text bother you? Let me ask you a question Would Jesus Christ say that you are full committed to Him? Really? His evaluation is all that really matters.