Jesus never said was going to be easy to follow Him. By referencing the cross in this verse, Jesus not only implied how He would die, but he gave the crowd a vivid illustration of the personal cost there was to following Him. The Jews had been introduced to this horrific means of execution by the Romans, who used it as a very effective tool of humiliation and intimidation. This crowd had watched as criminals were paraded through the streets, carrying their own cross, to the place they would be crucified…their execution very public and meant to be totally demeaning. But now Jesus was telling them they’d have to deny themselves to the point of complete surrender and sacrifice just as the criminals they saw in order to walk with Him. Following Jesus will never be easy. It starts with the willingness to give up “self”…our selfish pride and ego as we learn to trust and obey Jesus. It means taking up our cross – our own personal journey – in order to have fellowship with Him. Finally, it means humbling ourselves to the point that when people look at us…they only see Jesus.
We can’t begin to fathom God’s great compassion towards us. For we are separated from Him by our sin… spiritually dead…with no hope. But God saw us through eyes of unconditional love…looking beyond who we were, to who we could become in Christ Jesus. This gift of grace is extended to all…for it says, “it is by grace you have been saved.” The work has already been done, it was accomplished on Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. There is nothing we can do to receive it, for it is God’s unearned and unmerited favor that bestows this free gift of eternal life on us. We may never be able to fathom God’s mercy, but we can accept and trust in His Son, Jesus.
In this world of immediate gratification… where there seems to be no control or limits placed on decency or morality anymore…should we be surprised when young people aimlessly wander through life without goals, plans, and purpose? Their whole life has been centered around the next selfie…the next Social Media post…the next momentary pleasure. For when you ask them what they want to be doing in five years and how they’re going about achieving that right now…they give you a blank stare. Without direction, we flounder. Without limits, we lose inhibitions. Without a plan and purpose, our life is truly meaningless and empty. God has a plan and purpose for everyone…a wonderful life full of joy, self-discovery, and most of all peace.
The biggest cripplers of our Christian walk are fear and doubt. They effectively incapacitate and render us useless for the Lord, and are the favorite tools in Satan’s arsenal. God says, “Fear not!”, but instead, our eyes are fixated on the trouble around us and we freeze – paralyzed in fear. He says, “The battle is Mine not yours”, but we doubt, and surrender before we’ve even started to fight. When we operate in fear and doubt, we’re rejecting and denying God and His power. And even today if I asked you, there’s probably something that fear and doubt are holding you back from doing in your life. Satan loves fear and doubt…but he’s also anxious…for he knows that if Believers would conquer their inner doubt and fear and grasp a hold of God’s truths…they could change the world for Christ.
You may have been like me…your parents took you to Church every Sunday, you participated in activities at Church, and you even memorized Bible verses. You had lots of head knowledge about God…but it never migrated south to your heart. It wasn’t until years later when I had a very personal encounter with Jesus, that my life was changed forever. So what happened? We can go through life knowing “about” something, but it’s not until we come to the full comprehension and experience it for ourselves that it’s made real. When God reveals the spiritual truth of just who Jesus Christ is to us and that He died for our sins…there is no longer any confusion. For the spotlight of truth shines brightly onto our wretched lives, and we see ourselves for what we really are…a sinner needing salvation.
Some suggest that when King Xerxes gave his drunken order for the Queen to appear in public with her royal crown – that was all she was allowed to wear…thus she refused to comply with something she found offensive. Another meaning for being “in high spirits” here is not making good or proper decisions. Whenever we allow foreign substances to alter our mind and thinking we will make poor, spur of the moment decisions. For when alcohol, and drugs cloud our thought process, really stupid decisions can be made…with really sad far-reaching results.
In one breath the Lord admonishes us to hate evil, in the next, He teaches us to love one another and to love our neighbor as our self. So how can we love someone who’s immoral and unethical behavior goes against everything Godly we stand for? Or how can we show love and compassion to someone who flippantly thumbs their nose at God? It’s all about separating the sin from the sinner. We are to hate the sin but love the sinner. We can abhor the sin, but still show true affection…we can detest what’s happened to the person, but still remain devoted in friendship…we can loathe the mess they’ve gotten themselves into, but still love the person we know. By hating the sin and not the sinner, we show the true love of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel.