Matthew 16:24 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.
This statement was made in response to a conversation Christ was having with His disciples, in which He announced His soon coming death on Calvary. The disciples however were not willing to accept this sacred truth, for it conflicted with their visions of grandeur and preeminence in the kingdom of God. But Jesus saw fit to correct their erroneous beliefs by establishing the principle upon which His kingdom is built, that of self-denial. Let's read:
Matthew 16:21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 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.
This path of self-denial stands in stark contrast with the glamor and glitter so often displayed in modern Christianity. The devil has indeed succeeded in introducing a soul-destroying counterfeit to which too many have subscribed. The health-wealth gospel being advocated today removes the focus from the heavenly and eternal, and concentrates the attention on the temporal benefits the gospel may afford. This erroneous teaching and attitude is what drew such a sharp response from Christ, in order that His disciples and all would- be followers of the Lord Jesus would not be deluded as to what discipleship really meant.
Even though God has promised over and over again in his word, spiritual and temporal blessings to those who sincerely follow His teachings and commandments, yet it was never His intention that our main focus should be His temporal blessings, but rather an all-absorbing desire to be like Jesus in character.
Year after year as "Santa Claus " comes to town, millions of children flock to see him in anticipation of the gifts he supposedly brings. Most of them do not know who he really is or where he is coming from, and as a matter of fact his personage and character fades into oblivion in the face of the glitter and glamor, with which He is invested.
However, God is not Santa Claus. He has promised to supply all of our needs on condition that we make Him first in our affections by submitting to His wise leadership in the path of self denial. As we take up our duties for today, let's remember to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, being imbued and strengthened by His spirit, so that His character may shine forth radiantly as we interact with our fellowmen. We therefore end with a text and a promise that should serve to keep our focus on the spiritual aspects of God's kingdom instead of the temporal, transient blessings the gospel affords. Let's read:
Matthew 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
May this be our experience as we follow in the footsteps of the master. God bless!