Matthew 16:  Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Have you ever had a job where you were asked to do things that you just didn’t think were part of the job description? You signed up to be an executive assistant and the boss asks you to empty the recycling bin. You gripe about it but then you are shown that little bit of fine print in the contract that says that among your duties are those requests from the supervisor that contribute to the well being of the office. When I was mining in the Yukon I was told that if I couldn’t pound a ten inch spike into a post in four hits with the back of an axe I wasn’t fit for the job. That wasn’t in the job description anywhere but I soon learned that complaining about it wasn’t going to do me a bit of good.
We are all asked to do things in our jobs that don’t quite fit with what we thought the job was going to be about. Somebody should have told us, warned us, pulled us aside when we were applying for the job and gave us a clue as to what this job was really going to include.
The Christian life contains no fine print. God does not invite us to come to His Son while secretly holding on to a bunch of nasty stuff that He doesn’t want us to know about yet. He doesn’t give us the specific details of what our experiences will be, but He does tell us that we must die. He tells us that it will be joy unspeakable and full of glory as well.
When Jesus calls followers He calls us to come and die. The invitation is to take up our crosses and follow Him. This invitation is for everyone. Jesus is not saying that those who will deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him are super Christians. He is not saying “deny yourself and be a more committed believer”. He is not saying “deny yourself and be a cut above the average”. He is saying deny yourself and be a believer. He is saying “deny yourself and be on your way to heaven”. He is saying “deny yourself and be saved”. This is not a rare thing in the New Testament. See the parables of the treasure hidden in a field. (Mt. 13:44) and pearl of great price (Mt. 13:45-46) as just two examples.
There are far, far too many people claiming to be believers, Christians, saved … who are nothing of the sort. They are nothing of the sort because they simply are not willing to deny themselves and take up the implement of death and follow Christ. And they are convinced that even thought Jesus said these words they are not about them. This is about committed Christians, Spirit filled Christians, Christians who rise to the top, Christians in other countries where religious persecution is the order of the day… . No, this is about Christians. All Christians. It is for all who want to be saved from their sins.
So Jesus says – “Come follow me”. And we say “Where are you going?” And He says “Come and see. And don’t forget that” and He points to a cross upon which people die. And you say “I’ll follow you, but I’m not bringing that”. So Jesus responds “Well then, you can’t come.”… You are not allowed to be with me if you don’t pick that up and follow me”. This is Christianity. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions. There is no escape clause.
We invite people to come to Jesus and live. We invite them to come to Jesus and die.