~by Randy Bushey
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Mark 10:27).
In his book entitled, It Will Cost You Everything*, author Steven Lawson recalls 5 decades ago when he was offered a football scholarship to attend Texas Tech University.
As would any young athlete, he was elated at the free gift and the valuable components extended to him simply by signing the scholarship offer for his post-high school education: free tuition, books and tutors; free meals, room and laundry; free travel home for vacation.
All he had to do was commit to the program of playing football. It appeared to be a perfect transaction!
But he soon came to realize that although his education was extended to him free of charge, it would cost him everything – the totality of who he was.
That was because now he was told when to be at practice and when to attend team meetings. He was expected to adhere to an onerous exercise regimen and live by team rules. Additionally, he was to observe curfews, attend classes, give attention to his diet and maintain his grade-point average. His coach even expected him to attend church!
Lawson came to the realization that his free university scholarship cost him everything.
And he effectively uses that as an analogy for the Gospel. As the title of his book suggests, the free Gospel of Christ is intended to cost His disciple the totality of who they are.
Everything I have. Everything I am.
I recently explained this concept to a young man in his 20s. I’d never met him before, but he was reaching out for help.
He described that he had tried Christianity much earlier in his teen years, but it hadn’t worked for him and he’d therefore given up. After he carefully explained his faith experience, I responded that based on what he recounted, he had probably not authentically trusted Christ. He hadn’t completed the salvation transaction. He trusted as Jesus demands, and hadn’t submitted to Christ as Saviour and Lord as described in the Gospels.
He hadn’t ever carried his cross.
I reviewed with him the biblical concept of belief, what I often term CAT faith:
C is for content; we need to understand the Gospel of Christ: Jesus is God enfleshed; He lived a sinless life, died a sin-bearing death and rose on the 3rd day to prove His identity; He offers salvation – the escape from the certain wrath of God on the sin of mankind – to anyone and everyone embracing Him in repentance and faith.
A is for affirmation or assent; we need to agree intellectually that this Gospel is true.
T is for trust, placing our full confidence – the belief of our entire being – in Christ, submitting to His Lordship forever.
I told my young friend that although he understood something of the Gospel and maybe even believed it to be true, unless He had trusted Christ – the 3rd component of biblical faith – He hadn’t come to Christ on the terms that Jesus set.
The Gospel transaction is defined and set by Almighty God. No one gets to negotiate the terms or select the components of faith. No one cuts their own deal. The conditions of salvation are accepted or rejected, but never altered.
The Lord Jesus calls on us to be entirely sold-out to Him; to be entirely committed to Him – for life.
That’s the basic, non-negotiable entry criteria to this eternal relationship.
I explained to the troubled young man that anything less is inauthentic, false, and bogus. It may be a sincere form of religion; but it’s emphatically not the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that the Lord Jesus proclaimed.
This young man to whom I was speaking declined to take the Gospel process further.
When heard and comprehended in its naked, stark terms, many will walk away (as did the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27).
However, others run to Christ like a toddler to their parent.
Admittedly, His words sound scandalous to our western, 21st century ears, as they did to his near-East audience in the 1st century.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Five times in the Gospels, Jesus predicted the details of His own death. He knew that He’d be executed by crucifixion.
And yet He demanded the sign of the cross for His followers, a symbol of obscenity to Jewish ears – a reminder of Roman domination.
Caesar’s political representatives and military controlled much of life in Judea and Galilee, an ever-present reminder of Gentile domination with the authority to impose an onerous tax burden. Roman soldiers threatened violence, sometimes at the least provocation, and many Jews had witnessed Roman intimidation in varied and ugly forms.
Crucifixion was Rome’s favoured form of capital punishment producing a slow, torturous, agonizing death, perfect for public spectacle and deterrence.
And when the beaten and condemned prisoner dragged his cross to the place of crucifixion, he was admitting defeat and submission to the authority of Rome.
Somewhat surprisingly to us, that metaphor was what Christ chose to illustrate authentic discipleship.
Whatever controversy surrounded Jesus during His period of ministry, it was rarely because His teaching was misunderstood.
No, it was understood and it was hated.
However, if an accurate diagnosis is half-way to a correct cure, then we cannot ignore His words just because they are inconvenient and uncomfortable.
What Christ demands is provocative, confrontational, offensive and exclusive.
Takeaway: therein lies the gospel.
He insists on our primary allegiance; our loyalty and love to Christ above all.
Anything else fails to complete the transaction of salvation. Anything less falls below the minimum standard of CAT faith.
Dr. Lawson explains: “Salvation is entirely free. But receiving it will cost you everything. It is not offered as cheap grace. Nor is it received by easy believism. It does not take a particularly special person to be a Christian. Just all there is of him.”
* Steven Lawson, It Will Cost You Everything – what it takes to follow Jesus, Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Scotland, 2021
~ graphic by jonathan_n at freeimages.com