For generations, Christians have contemplated the words of Christ that to follow Him means laying down our own desires to take up the cause and cross of Jesus.
Below are commentaries by five leading theologians who grapple with the heavy cost of following Christ. Thankfully, He is always with us for a hope and a future that is worth it all, to the glory of God.
On Luke 9:23-27
“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with everything else thrown in.”
– C.S. Lewis
On Matthew 16:21-28
“The passion of Christ is the victory of divine love over the powers of evil, and therefore it is the only supportable basis for Christian obedience. Once again, Jesus calls those who follow Him to share His passion. How can we convince the world by our preaching of the passion when we shrink from the passion in our own lives? On the cross Jesus fulfilled the law He Himself established and thus graciously keeps His disciples in the community of His suffering. The cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil. But it was just this participation in the cross which the disciples were granted when Jesus called them to Him. They are called blessed because of their visible participation in His cross.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
On Philippians 3:1-16
“He [Paul] deemed all these things to be but loss, compared with the knowledge of Christ, by faith in His person and salvation. He speaks of all worldly enjoyments and outward privileges which sought a place with Christ in his heart, or could pretend to any merit and desert, and counted them but loss; but it might be said, it is easy to say so; but what would he do when he came to the trial? He had suffered the loss of all for the privileges of a Christian. Nay, he not only counted them loss, but the vilest refuse, offals thrown to dogs; not only less valuable than Christ, but in the highest degree contemptible, when set up as against Him. True knowledge of Christ alters and changes men, their judgements, and manners, and makes them as if made again anew. The believer prefers Christ, knowing that it is better for us to be without all worldly riches, than without Christ and His word. Let us see what the apostle resolved to cleave to, and that was Christ and heaven. We are undone, without righteousness wherein to appear before God, for we are guilty. There is a righteousness provided for us in Jesus Christ, and it is a complete and perfect righteousness. None can have benefit by it, who trust in themselves. Faith is the appointed means of applying the saving benefit. It is by faith in Christ’s blood. We are made conformable to Christ’s death, when we die to sin, as He died for sin; and the world is crucified to us, and we to the world, by the cross of Christ.”
– Matthew Henry
On Matthew 25:31-45
“To many the saying, ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’ seems hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.’ Those who hear the word of the cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal damnation on the Day of Judgement. This sign of the cross will be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who during life made themselves one with the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to Christ, the judge. Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross i infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross.”
– Thomas à Kempis
On James 5:7-12
“Long ago God ordained that the cross of trials should be engraved on each and every vessel of His mercy as the royal mark denoting the King’s vessels of honor. although tribulation is the path God’s children must take, they can take comfort in knowing their aster has traveled that way before them. More than that, they have His presence with them, His sympathy to encourage them, His grace to support them, and His example to teach them how to endure.”
– Charles Spurgeon
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