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The cost
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Do you ever think about what it means to follow Christ?

Do you ever really consider what it can cost?

I think few of us really ever give it much thought.

But for those of us who have suffered, have lost, been persecuted. We know just how painful it can be.

Denying ourselves. The things we desire from life. Our hopes, our dreams, our aspirations. ...All the things the world chases after.

In other words. Put simply? Really following Christ, does have it's price.

I remember many years ago. I was in a very hard place in my life. I was young. In my early twenties. Did not know who Jesus was. Had made many bad choices in life. Had been in much trouble. I was on the "bottom". I could not get much lower than I was. Except to succeed in taking my own life.

And it was at that point that God lifted me up. Using a bad, painful situation for my good. And lifted me out of my pain and despair. He changed my life dramatically. He gave me meaning, love, purpose. He gave me what I had never had before. He gave me hope.

...And I resolved that no matter what, I would follow Him to the end.

He changed my life forever.

But it also had it's cost. And the cost was great. Over time I had lost those that were dear to me. I had lost almost everything save the clothes on my back and some possessions. My heart was broken, overwhelmed. In fact it was so broken that I cried for months  ....even years.

And to this day as I think about it. It seemed so long ago. But the memories of all those painful times are still somewhat vivid.

I still think about the two closest to me. Often, with tears in my eyes. And all the years I have missed. Losing them was the greatest pain I had ever known. And it's only by the power of God that my heart was comforted. But even in this I still miss them very much. The two that meant the most in my life. 

You know, not many of us give much thought about the words Jesus spoke to us about following Him.

He told us to, "take up our cross":

 "Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

                        (Luke 9:23 NKJV)

But how many of us really do?

And what is it to take up our cross?

Let's really think about it. The cross was an instrument of excecution. But not only for execution. But also in inflicting great pain on it's victim before death. Sometimes lasting for days.

Nails through the hands and feet. The person gasping for air. Trying to hold them self up so they could get a breath into their lungs. But finally not being able to hold them self up. They would die of asphyxiation.

And if your not exacty sure what this means? 

The person, weary after hours of holding them self up to breathe. Would finally become exhausted from all their struggling. And not being able to hold them self up anymore. They would succumb to exhaustion. They could no longer draw a breathe in. They would suffocate and die.

And because the painful process could last for days. This is why during the crucifixion of Jesus. That the Roman soldiers were asked, to break the legs of those being crucified, including Jesus (John 19). Because the sabbath was drawing near. But of course, Jesus' legs were not broken according to scripture (Ps 34:20).

So the picture we have of the cross, is not a pretty one! And it's much more than just nails. Isn't it? It's a vivid, gruesome picture of horrible pain, humiliation, torture and death.

And why humiliation?

Because anyone who was hung on a tree was considered a curse:

   “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God."

               (Deuteronomy 21:22-23 NKJV)

Not only that, but a person who is crucified. Suffers many forms of humiliation (which we won't discuss here) as the crucifixion is carried out.

Now, when Jesus asks us to take up our cross. He's not only asking us to give our lives for Him. But also we are called to suffer (for His sake). Now this is not something any of us want to hear is it? Let's be honest! I don't like hearing it myself. But if we believe scripture. If we believe the word of God? We cannot deny that this is reality. That we are called to suffer.

Basically? We are to "die" to ourselves.

And part of that dying, suffering, is persecution:

  “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me."

                 (John 15:18-21 NKJV)

 "Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,"

                (Matthew 23:34 NKJV)

And not only will we be persecuted. But sadly enough. Some of our enemies will be those of our own household (i.e. "families" etc.):

 "and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."

              (Matthew 10:36-39 NKJV)

Imagine those in your own family becoming your enemies. Husbands, wives, children, parents, etc. Just imagine! All because you love Jesus. Sad isn't it? Absolutely! But it happens. And it's very painful. But just as Peter said to Jesus:

 "But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

                    (John 6:68 NKJV)

Where else can we go? Especially when we come to know that Jesus truly loves us. That He truly gave His life for us. And He truly cares for us. How can we not love Him back?

You see as we come to really know who Jesus is. We come to initmately know Him. We will come to know His suffering. And more often than not, it comes by suffering ourselves.

And this is not something any of us want to hear. But it is reality. It is the truth.

You see many of us confess to love God. but how much do we really love Him? Are we willing to put Him in the right place? Above ourselves? Above all others?

Now, this doesn't mean neglecting those close to us. Those we love and care for. Not by any means. We should love them as He has called us too (JN 15:12)! ...But it also means that we will not deny Him!!

If someone gave you a choice. They asked you, "choose me, or choose God?". What would your answer be?

You see I have had to answer that before in my life. More than once. And it hurts. It is very painful. But just as Peter said, "where would we go Lord?" 

  ...Where can I go?

This life is short for all of us. Sometimes I think that we do not consider this. We all have a choice. Follow the Lord. Worship Him in "spirit and in truth". Just as Jesus told us that God is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:23). Or we can deny Him by the way that we live:

 "But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."

                   (Matthew 10:33 NKJV)

It's all up to us. It our choice. Do we love God with all our hearts, soul, mind, strength (MK 12:30)? Do we follow Him (JN 12:26)?  ...Or do we conform to the rest of the world?

Suffering is not easy for any of us. It is not "fun". Nor did Jesus die on the cross because it was "fun"! He died on the cross because He loves you. With all His heart!

Now I do not say this to be sarcastic. Nor to be negative. I say this, as this is reality!

Now, we must also remember what Paul said:

 "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

                   (Romans 8:18 NKJV)

And Paul knew what suffering was all about:

 "Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—"

             (2 Corinthians 11:23-27 NKJV)

Even in the suffering (which of course is never easy!). We have to remember that this life is "temporal". That we are but a "vapor" (PS 39:).

And that God has much better things for us:

 "But as it is written:

       Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
       Nor have entered into the heart of man
       The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

                 (1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV)

You see we must remember that if we really follow Christ. There is a cost.

So ask yourself. Do you really know what it is to follow Christ? Do you really know the cost?

Do you really love Him?

Only you can answer this.

Rev. John Heintzman
Evangelist Non-Denominational
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POHOM Columbus, Ohio
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