When Jesus walked this earth, most of those around Him didn’t truly understand His mission. They came to Him for healing, they came to Him for comfort, they came to Him for His teachings. One even came to Him to have Him settle a dispute between himself and his brother (see Luke 12: 13, 14). Few came to Him determined to obey Him and follow Him as Lord. What was true then is still true today.
Turn on a television set on any Sunday morning and you will see scores of so-called preachers teaching us that Christianity is meant to make us comfortable, healthy, wealthy and wise. Don’t you believe them. God the Father didn’t send His precious Son down to earth to be crushed by Himself as penalty for mankind’s sins just so that He could make us comfortable. That’s blasphemous. Jesus, Who would die on a cross, commanded His would-be followers to follow Him in like manner. Matthew 16: 24 states, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” These are not easy, comfortable words. This would have shocked and frightened those who heard Him. Who ever heard such a thing? Command your followers to take up an instrument of execution and then follow You? Unheard of. A cross is meant to kill the one who is put upon it. If it doesn’t, then it has failed to do its job. Jesus’ listeners knew all too well what crosses were for and that’s why this was such shocking teaching. They realized that He was commanding an all-out complete devotion irrespective of the survival of the follower.
Today, we see crosses as pretty little things to wear around our necks or as adornments for our churches. Even rock and rap stars wear them (although devoid of any spiritual meaning it would seem). We put them on plaques on our walls and set them on our desks. They dangle from key-chains and decorate our tee-shirts. Seeing them all the time as we do, it’s easy to forget the real history behind them. It was bloody. It was horrid. It was destructive. It meant death. A cross, properly understood, still means death. When Jesus told us to take up our cross daily and follow Him what He was saying is, “If you are going to follow Me, the old you must be put to death and I must be given control of the new you to command you as I see fit. You are no good to Me in the state that you are in.”
Comfortable Christianity? No, there is no such thing. Jesus died to offer salvation to His followers. His disciples died to preach the Word. Countless martyrs throughout the years have died to proclaim, protect and defend the Gospel. They are dying still. Last century saw a major upswing in the volume of martyrs. According to The New Persecuted: Inquiries Into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs by Antonio Socci over 70,000,000 people have died as martyrs for their faith in Christ since the beginning of Christianity. That’s shocking enough. What’s even more shocking is that, according to his research, over 45, 000,000 of those died in the last century. Comfortable? Hardly.
Jesus meant it when He said that we are to take up our cross and follow Him. It isn’t comfortable. It was never meant to be comfortable. In Matthew 10: 34-36, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be those of his own household.” Jesus then goes on to say that if we love anyone more than Him, we are not worthy of Him. He then adds, in verses 38-39, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
Following Jesus was never meant to be comfortable. It was never meant to provide you with a life of ease and luxury. It isn’t about finding parking lots or having great sex (as some modern preachers seem to be teaching!). Following Jesus was and is about dying to yourself, to sin and to this world and living only unto Him. Comfortable? No. Magnificent and without equal? Absolutely!