“Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.””
What does it cost us to follow Jesus today in North America? Some might say that it doesn’t cost us much because we live in a much easier time and place for Christian witness than that of the Apostles or even those in other Nations around the world. Perhaps it would help if we were to rephrase the question just a little bit. What does it cost us to truly follow Jesus today baring witness to His Gospel in our diverse, secular, 21st century cities and world?
I have been wrestling with this question recently as I am called to be a witness to the Gospel of Christ in the heart of a rapidly growing diverse city. The easy route would be to throw up my hands and to say that the task is impossible. However deep inside I know that the Lord has called me to this place and that I will be accountable for those that I have been placed among. The calling, my calling, is to be faithful in proclaiming the Gospel of the grace of Christ to the people of my city. This calls me, or should I say us, to a life of self-denial in baring witness here. What does this self-denial look like? Here we are helped by this definition given by Wilhelmus a’Brakel.
“Self-denial is a Christian virtue, granted by God to His children, whereby they, out of love for God’s will, neither give heed nor yield to their intellect, will, and inclinations insofar as they are in opposition to the will of God—and oppose and suppress them instead. They do so by a voluntary forsaking and rejection of all that pertains to their natural well-being, if God’s cause demands such from them. This [is] to the honour of God and the welfare of their neighbours.” (from “Self-denial (Free Grace Broadcaster – Puritan Collection #218)”
What is needed is the pursuit of the will of God in every part of life. Don Carson writes in Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor which is a brief biography of his father Tom Carson and his life as an evangelical Church Planter in mid 20th century Quebec an exploration of the trials of a Godly man, faithfully baring witness under some extremely severe trials. Others have written about the trials and persecutions of the reformers and the New Testament Apostles. These faithfully persevered in their witness despite huge odds. In examining these lives certain lessons stand out.
1) These all laboured in the Scriptures. To bear witness requires that we know and understand what our message is.
2) They bore witness to the Gospel of Christ. They turned away from a trust in anything other than the Grace of God in Christ Crucified. This is our only hope.
3) They loved God first and their neighbour as themselves.
4) They were persons of integrity. They lived true to the commitments they made in their lives.
5) They were people of prayer. Carson sums up his father’s life with these brief words. “He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists.” Tom Carson was a man who had very extensive prayer lists which he faithfully brought to the Throne of Grace.
The question these points confront me with is whether this describes me? Does it describe you?