“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”” Matthew 16:24
In Matthew 16 Jesus is speaking to His disciples again. He has just started to reveal to them the path He is on to Jerusalem and the cross (Matthew 16:21-23). And now He teaches them how to live as His followers. He teaches us what it means for us to live in the now but not yet of the Kingdom. And it is possibly the most radical challenging call ever given. He tells His disciples that living as Kingdom people means denying themselves, taking up a cross and following Jesus.
This is not the way we would think to grow a following. You want people to follow you? Don’t tell them to deny themselves. Don’t tell them they need to take up a cross. Focus on what they will gain, not what it will cost. But Jesus is turning things upside down as He teaches us what it means to live for the Kingdom. He tells us that “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Matthew 16:25. Such is the upside down logic of the Kingdom where we find life by losing it for Jesus’ sake, where to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Jesus is revealing here that Kingdom living is costly. There will be sacrifices to be made. Self-gratification opportunities to be denied. Money to be given away. Potential gains to be turned down. People will disown us. The Kingdom life is not one that will endear us to all. Many will despise and reject us. There will be persecution. Real serious persecution. Risk of death persecution. There is a high cost to Kingdom living.
We have not been called to a safe comfortable life of just sitting around singing worship songs, drinking coffee, seeking out spiritual highs and passively waiting for heaven. We are called to be active in the harvest work of advancing the Kingdom. We are called to the costly work of sacrificing for the sake of the Kingdom, laying down our rights and privileges so that others may come to see the glory of God.
There definitely is a place for enjoying worship and fellowship with other believers, but that is not all there is to the Kingdom. Kingdom living means living in such a way that we impact those around us with the love, grace, mercy, joy, hope and justice of God. Kingdom living means not just gathering as the church but also going out into the world as the body of Christ. Kingdom living is the only way that leans to the eternal life of the Kingdom. Worldly living may be satisfying in the moment but in the scale of eternity gaining the world will count for nothing if it comes at the cost of our soul. Kingdom living may not bring earthly rewards. It will not make sense to those around us. It will come at a high cost. But it will be eternally worth it. For us as Kingdom citizens to live is Christ and to die is gain. The upside down logic of the Kingdom assures us that though it may look like we are missing out, like we are losing, we are actually finding the true gain of eternity with God, and nothing can compare to that.
Kingdom life is given freely to us all when we put our faith in Jesus, but Kingdom living will cost us our all.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17