Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

The Cross of a True Disciple
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV)
““For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25 NKJV)
““For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 NKJV)
““For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” (Matthew 16:27 NKJV)
Definition of a Disciple
A true disciple is not only a pupil or learner but a follower.  The follower seems to be the one who has been instructed and is committed to that instruction, or better yet to that instructor.  Thus, when Matthew 28:19 commands the Lord’s disciples to make disciples (or teach according to the KJV), there seems to be an assumption that the pupil will be taught by following.  However, Matthew 16:24 indicates that being a follower of Christ is not a walk in the park on a nice day in the fall.  Being a disciple or follower requires a denial of self and a willingness to take up his or her cross and follow the Lord.  The cross is where people die.  But is that what we are telling people when we encourage them to become a disciple of the Lord?  
I have always used the 26th verse to explain the Gospel.  Usually we assume that saving your soul is being saved for eternity and the soul is the permanent eternal part of a person.  So we tell people that it is foolish to save your current life and lose your eternal life (that is, end up in hell and the lake of fire).  
However, the soul refers to the breath of life and often refers to the essential nature of a person as they are living right now.   That seems to be the case in our passage for this meditation.  The issue that the Lord is dealing with seems to be service and the loss of reward rather than eternal condemnation according to verse 27.  You can save your (current) life and make it count for the Lord by denying self now, and you can lose that life and any reward for faithfulness by living for self now.  And while I have no problem using this section to preach the Gospel in the sense of being saved for eternity, the real sense is to count the cost of discipleship as we live now.  We know that many people do not accept the truth of the Gospel because of problems that it will cause in their families or in their societies.  I wonder if we are honest about what a disciple really is when we preach the Gospel.
We often present the Gospel as though it is going to be “fun” to be saved. There are some “parties” in the Gospels.   There is one in heaven when a sinner repents.  There is also the one when the prodigal son comes home.  There is one wedding where there seems to be partying in John chapter 2 but these are the exception and not the rule.  
The New Testament Teaching
The Lord says to deny ourselves and take up a cross in our verses for today. In addition he says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NKJV).” 
 Paul says, “For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know  (1 Thessalonians 3:4 NKJV).”  Again he says, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29 NKJV),”
Peter says, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7 KJV):”  Again we read, “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19 NKJV).”
James says,”My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2 NKJV).”
The example found in the Acts of the Apostles follows this same pattern, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41 NKJV)
There seems to be a great emphasis on suffering and tribulation when we look at the life of a Christian.  Frankly, I wonder how many would sign up to be a Christian if the Gospel had been presented not only as a way to be sure of heaven but also as a life of self denial, tribulation and suffering.  Often that suffering is at the hands of those who claim to be religious.  Maybe we would all be more “real” if we were more honest about the consequences of following the Lord Jesus. 
Bruce Collins
Meditation for the week of October 3, 2021

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