Tom: Thanks, Gary. We’re concluding a series of programs in which we’ve discussed what the Bible has to say about the meaning of the cross, about being crucified with Christ, about what it means to deny self, take up one’s cross, and follow Christ, and what it means to truly be Christ’s disciple. Now, I have some questions that grew out of the things we’ve been talking about, and I want to start with discipleship. Matthew:16:24 is a key verse about discipleship. Verse 24: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Dave, before we talk about that, there are two other verses that really seem to press this, and that’s really what I want to talk about. Matthew:10:38: “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” And then it seems that Luke gets a little tougher, Luke:14:27: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
Now, Dave, we’ve been talking for months about salvation being a free gift, having to do with faith, believing by faith alone, and we would think everyone who comes to Christ by faith would be His disciple. What are these verses—are these seem to be—some might say, well, they seem to be imposing some kind of works.
Dave: Yes, well first of all, it doesn’t say he can’t be saved, or he can’t go to heaven. It says, “He can’t be my disciple; he’s not worthy of me.” As a matter of fact, it turns out that none of His disciples were His disciples, because the scripture says, “Then they all forsook him and fled.” We have most emphasis upon Peter, because he denied the Lord, but all of them fled . . . for their own skin, you know, when the soldiers came to take Jesus, they—well, Peter made a feeble attempt. He was a poor swordsman—aimed for cutting of the head and cut off an ear; and the Lord healed it and said, “Put up your sword,” and so forth. But they all forsook the Lord and fled.
So I think that we have to understand first of all, Jesus is saying this as He’s on the way to the cross. I don’t think he’s setting a standard of salvation that we must attain to today, because, obviously, we are not going to be literally crucified. So it’s not meaning that we pick up a cross, somehow, and if we could just carry a cross around. Some people think their mother-in-law is their cross, or their wife, or their husband. That’s not what he’s talking about. So if we’re going to find an application for ourselves today, it has to be, I think, different from the primary thing He was saying to those people at that time, and we’ve talked about this before. What He was saying, literally, was, “I’m going to the cross; I’m heading for a hill outside Jerusalem called Calvary. They’re going to nail me to a cross. Now if you want to be my disciples, make up your mind right now—that’s where we’re going. So, pick up your cross and follow me. That’s where we’re heading.”
Now he doesn’t mean pick up a literal cross. He didn’t literally carry his cross until later. But He meant make up your mind, “I’m heading for a cross.” Now, of course later, in John 13, Peter swears his loyalty. Jesus says, “You’re going to deny Me.”
Peter says, “They’ll all deny you, but yet will not I.”
And Jesus said, “You will deny Me, Peter.”
He says, “I’ll follow you where ever you go!”
Jesus said, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me hereafter.”
So, the Lord, I think, was setting a standard that no one could attain to at that time. Even if they had wanted to die on crosses along with Him, they couldn’t. That wouldn’t have been allowed. He had to die that death for us; He had to pay the penalty for our sin. So, this was something that no one else could attain to. So I think, first of all, He is showing them the impossibility, of really living up to the standard that he has set. They’re not worthy, nobody is worthy of Him, and Peter acknowledged that eventually: “Lord, I’m not worthy of You.”
Tom: So it really still comes back to faith in Him alone.
Dave: Yeah, for us today, the cross means something else. It’s not a place where we literally are nailed. Well, you have people in the Philippines for example, the Catholics, who have themselves nailed to crosses, literally, really nailed, thinking that that will help buy their salvation and pay for their sins.
Tom: Right, through suffering, through expiating their own sins.
Dave: And, of course, it won’t do that. That’s the whole idea of purgatory, or one of the ideas of purgatory. Purgation: you purge—you have to be purged no matter how much Jesus accomplished on the cross through His suffering, you must be purged. We talked about that last time, the physical suffering and so forth. That’s not where our salvation came from.
So the cross today is not a place where I physically die. It’s a place where I recognize that I have died in Christ. If I really believe in Him, first of all I acknowledge the justice of God judging Him when He took my place, He took the penalty I deserved, and if I really believe in Him, I have accepted that penalty as my own, as what I deserve, only I couldn’t pay it and He paid it for me. But now I’m crucified with Him, Paul said in Galatians:2:20. We’ve quoted it many times. “I am crucified with Christ.” That’s the difference (I guess we’ve talked about this, as well), that’s the difference between Barabbas—Barabbas could say, “Christ died in my place.” Christ literally died in his place and Barabbas was set free. Barabbas could have gone around and given a wonderful testimony how that Christ died in his place. But for all that . . .
Tom: Now, Barabbas, for some who may not know, Barabbas was in jail right at the time that they put Christ Jesus in jail.
Dave: He was a criminal.
Tom: Right, he was a criminal, and it was a tradition of the time (I don’t know if that’s the right word) to release a prisoner prior to the—was it the Passover?
Dave: Yes, yes, and Pilate wanted to release Jesus, and they said, “Away with him! Crucify him! We want Barabbas!” Barabbas was a criminal, and he had committed murder and so forth. So Jesus literally took the place of Barabbas. And what the death of Jesus did for Barabbas was to set that criminal free to go out and continue to live his life as he pleased.
What the death of Jesus did for Saul of Tarsus was to transform him completely—to put Saul to death, and out of that, the resurrection was Paul the Apostle in whom Christ now was living and who could say, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.”
So I think that’s what the cross means for us today. That we are not just playing church. We are not playing games. But when we open our hearts to Christ, something really serious happens. We don’t do it, we can’t do it, but the Holy Spirit—we’re born of the Holy Spirit, of the Spirit of God, into the family of God; we become the children of God. Christ comes to live His life in us, and that’s why the scripture says, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away; all things have become new.” This is not a rabbit’s foot that you put in your pocket, or whatever, and it’s going to get you to heaven. No, there is something really powerful that happens when we believe in Christ; we belong to Him from then on. So, I think that’s what the cross really means. It’s going to have practical effects in my life.
Tom: Yeah, so Dave, these verses then, Matthew:16:24, in terms of how we would understand them: “Take up the cross, follow Me,” the other verses that I read—“He that does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me”—these, in a sense, for us today, who are believers in Christ . . .
Tom: . . . we have eternal life in Him. But we can still be challenged to see if we are living up to, in love, in thankfulness, to what Christ has done—not for our salvation, because Christ has already accomplished that. But He can chide us, so that’s the way we take these verses, I would think, rather than . . . and, Dave, as you know, we get letters—it surprises us sometimes. Because some people write, and maybe they have been following the ministry for a long time, and we just assume they’re either reading the material or, certainly, reading the Scriptures, but they doubt their own salvation. They go through times in which [they ask] can I truly be saved? That’s a little unnerving, and on the other hand, I can kind of empathize with that because they are not understanding the Scriptures or believing the Scriptures.
Dave: Well, we don’t save ourselves, and we are not saved by our good works. We know that from the Word of God. One of my favorite scriptures is Romans:4:5: “Now to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” So, we are saved not of works but by faith. And the only way we qualify for salvation is because we’re sinners, hopelessly lost, deserving of eternal judgment. And when I then accept the penalty Christ paid, I accept Christ as the one who died in my place, I am saved. It’s not a question of now how good a person have I become. That’s God’s job. He’s going to change me completely if I will trust Him; if I am willing. It’s not a do-it-yourself kit. Salvation is not that, but it’s something that He will do. Salvation is not about what I can do; it’s about what Jesus has done.
And when I put my faith in that, and I trust Him, then what causes me to doubt? “Well, I’m not living up to what my performance ought to be,” or “I have failed in this or that.” Well, that’s common to Christians, but that has nothing to do with our salvation. Now, on the other hand, it could indicate that I’m really not genuine in my faith. There are people who claim to believe in Jesus, and they are no different after that profession of faith than they were before. Well, generally those people aren’t concerned, so the very fact that a person is concerned about their performance . . . Paul said, “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7). It’s the people who can go heedlessly on, they can live for self, they can live like the world all around them—there is no difference, except they call themselves Christians. They go to church on Sunday, perhaps, and they are not concerned. Those are the people that I would be concerned about. But someone who feels they must be not a Christian because they didn’t live up to a certain standard, I have good hopes for them, and I would want to just turn them, from themselves and their performance, to the Lord, because their performance is not going to improve by working harder at it. It’s going to improve by faith in Christ and believing that they are dead, crucified with Christ, and allowing Him to live His life through them.
Tom: “The just shall live by faith. . . . ”
Dave: Right, but the matter of our salvation is totally by faith. It’s dependent entirely upon what Christ has done. So the question is, “Did Christ pay the full penalty? Did He satisfy His Father? Did He satisfy His own infinite justice? Then have I believed in Him? Have I accepted this from Him?” Then I am saved.
Tom: Dave, there are so many scripture verses that talk about the crucified life. You quoted Galatians:2:20: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” That’s an incredible verse!
Dave, 2 Corinthians:5:14-15 is another verse that I think really relates to what you were just talking about: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him, which died for them, and rose again.”
Dave: So there you have it again. He didn’t die for me so that I could be like Barabbas and live to myself, but He died for me so that I could be like Paul—crucified with Christ and now Christ is living in me.
See, Tom, the biggest problem that any of us has is ourselves. I’m my own biggest problem. You’re your own biggest problem. Self (we’ve talked about it) had its awful birth back there in the Garden of Eden when Eve began to live for self, to assert herself, to please herself, and went after that fruit that Satan promised her would be so beneficial to her. And this is what the cross is designed to do away with—self. I don’t think of myself anymore, but I belong to him, “ . . . so that they which live, should no longer live unto themselves.”
Now, Tom, we can talk about these things theoretically, but we have husbands and wives (I hope) listening. We have brothers and sisters, children and parents, and you know, living at home together [and], you can get a little bit feisty with one another; a little bit selfish. I mean, you see it in children. Pass a plate of cookies around. Do you think they want everybody else to have the larger one, or do they grab the larger one for themselves?
It starts very young. It’s in us, and this was what the classics taught. This was what the philosophers taught. This is what modern psychology teaches us. How about Carl Rogers? “You have to worship at the throne of self, enthroned within.” And when his wife, Helen, was dying, he took up with another woman, another affair, because he had to be true to himself. Why should he devote himself to a dying woman? But as that fool in Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” And yet some Christian psychologists have quoted that as though those were the words of wisdom from the Lord himself.
So that’s our problem: selfish, self-centered, in love with self, and looking out for ourselves. It is absolutely contrary to our nature; it is contrary to the wisdom of this world to serve others. But we don’t do it to gain points with God. We don’t do it for salvation; we do it because this is what Christ did. If He had not done that for us, none of us would be saved. And Christ has come to live His life in us now, so this should be the manifestation of the life of Christ so we no longer live to self, but we live to Him.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, every time we find the word . . . not every time, but mostly, when we find the word “death,” die to self, Colossians:3:3, “For ye are dead [that is, dead to self] and your life [so they can’t be talking about physical death here] is hid with Christ in God,” Romans:6:11 . . .
Dave: Well, finish that: “When Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Wherefore, mortify the deeds of the body . . .” and then he goes on. Colossians 3 is one of the most powerful chapters showing what the Christian life should not be and then what is should be. “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, holiness . . . ” and so forth. So, it’s fantastic, but Tom, I don’t know if I can emphasis it enough to myself or to our listeners—it is all in Christ. It is all through Christ. He has to do it through me. I cannot do it in order to follow His example and live up to His standard. He must do it through me and it is so wonderful when I trust Him for this.
Tom: Right, and you said just a minute ago, “Mortify the flesh”—by the Spirit, because the flesh profits nothing. You can reshape yourself every which way you want by the flesh, and it just profits nothing. It doesn’t work.
Dave, we’ve got about five minutes left in this segment. Here’s a problem that’s been sort of thrown our way. Now, if Christ paid the full penalty—we’re talking about the penalty for sin, and He paid it for everyone, well, then, why would anyone go to hell, if the price—the payment—has already been made?
Dave: For the same reason—well, you had a famous case that went to the Supreme Court. I think it started in Maryland. A man on death row, who was pardoned by the governor—he rejected the pardon, and they took it to the Supreme Court. His attorneys tried to insist that he should be let free anyhow. And the Supreme Court said no. A pardon is an offer of forgiveness. If the recipient of that pardon rejects the pardon, then it is of no benefit. Now, the pardon had been issued. His release was certain. But he rejected it.
Christ paid the penalty for our sins, but if we reject that payment on our behalf, then we’re not pardoned. Now, if somebody says, “Well, then, some of His suffering was wasted because some of it was for people who reject Him and will go to hell.” No, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t divide up the suffering of Christ and say, “some of it was for me and some of it was for you” and so forth. Christ first of all had to pay the penalty for sin. He had to pay the penalty for Adam’s sin. It was Adam’s sin, “ . . . by one man (his sin), sin entered into this world and death by sin.”
So Christ had to pay the full penalty. If there had one been one person saved, Christ still had to pay the full penalty because, of course, as James tells us, you offend in one point, you break one commandment of the law, you’ve broken them all, because one is as bad as another. Any breach of the law is rebellion against God. That is really the sin. So, that’s the penalty that Christ paid, and there is no way that some of His blood could be shed for some people and some for others. It just wouldn’t work. He had to pay the full penalty for anyone to be saved.
Tom: Right and we who are trusting in Him, believing in Him, are indeed, though not physically, but by faith are crucified with him.
Dave: Amen. That is the wonder of salvation! Buddha didn’t offer that; Confucius didn’t offer it; Muhammad didn’t offer it. See, this is the difference between the real Christian life of discipleship. We are talking about trusting in Him, trusting in His Word, and His life in us, and trying to live up to some standard—Buddha had a lot of good ideas. He set a high standard, which he couldn’t attain to himself. Confucius had some great ideas, but the great master couldn’t live up to them, either. That’s not what Christianity is about. We are not under the law. We’re under a higher law, and that is the standard of Jesus Christ himself, and only He can live that through us. And what a joy, what a wonder, it is! And I just hope that you and I will experience it more, and that our listeners will experience more—the life of Christ to be lived through us.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, I want to close with this verse: Hebrews:12:2, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Tom: And we participate in that through Him.
Dave: That’s fabulous!