“And if you do not carry your own cross and follow Me, you cannot be My disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost.” (Luke 14:27-28a NLT)
The path of blessing at times may seem elusive, yet over and over in Scripture it is clearly outlined. For example, in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-11, Jesus outlines what is commonly referred to as the Beatitudes. At the beginning of each verse are the words: “God blesses…”
Pay special attention to the categories that lead to blessing: the poor, those who mourn, those who are humble, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, those whose hearts are pure, those who work for peace, those who are persecuted for doing right, and those who are mocked and persecuted for being a Jesus follower.
These aren’t typically the paths most people choose for themselves, but Jesus says in the verse above from Luke, that if we don’t choose to carry our own cross and follow Him, we can’t be His disciple. But He adds: “don’t begin until you count the cost.” “But,” you may ask, “how are ‘carrying your own cross’ and ‘blessing’ connected?”
Perhaps a reasonable question would be: “To whom is Jesus speaking in these passages?” The Beatitudes are directed to His disciples (see Matthew 5:1), but the passage in Luke is directed to those who are following Jesus but haven’t decided to commit to discipleship. So, that begs the question: “Where are you? Disciple? Or are you still kicking the proverbial tires of commitment?”
The Beatitudes essentially reveal Jesus’ heart, because everyone of them describe a characteristic of who He is. So, to become His disciple, or in other words, to pick up and carry our own cross, is to exhibit these characteristics in and through our own life. On some levels, these beatitudes are revealed in us the closer we walk with the Lord.
Yet, for those who aren’t yet following the Lord, they need to commit to Him their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. How so? By an act of their will. Carrying a cross implies picking it up and carrying it. So? So, that is an act of our will. Jesus doesn’t pick it up and set it on our shoulder. We choose to believe that He is the Christ, the Messiah of God, God in human flesh. And because of that choice, we pick up our cross, which essentially means, to place God’s will and preferences above our own.
Jesus bore the cross upon which He died by an act of His will. He wrestled with that mission in the garden of Gethsemane, but ultimately chose to obey God. That’s basically the decision we make every morning, every second of the day. We choose God’s way – the way of spiritual poverty; to mourn the lostness of those around us who don’t yet know Jesus; to humbly choose submission to His authority over our lives in place of our own; to hunger and thirst for more of Him; to be merciful; to allow Him to cleanse and purify our heart; to work for His peace, not only in our lives, but in the lives of those who are lost; and to choose persecution and mocking for His name’s sake rather than walk in the ways of the world.
There’s a sense in which if we counted the cost of following Jesus and measured it against our own strength and willpower, we’d never muster the courage to take the first step. However, Jesus isn’t calling us to be the proverbial “lone Ranger,” making our way in our own power. That’s why it’s so critical that we respond to His invitation to be yoked with Him (see Matthew 11:29-30).
Being a disciple of Christ is a partnership that leads to unimaginable blessing, not only in heaven when this life is over, but every second of every day as we listen to His voice and rejoice in His loving friendship. The path of blessing is the path on which He leads us as His children every day.
Blessings, Ed 😊