|Topical Bible Study||September 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson V
Following the Master
JESUS invited those who believed on him to become his followers. He made it plain, however, that the only ones who could be his true followers were those willing to deny themselves and bear the cross. (Matt. 16:24) Jesus explained that those who did not love him even more than they loved the members of their own families were not worthy of him. (Matt. 10:37,38) These terms of discipleship laid down by the Master are very exacting. They are not the terms upon which mankind in general will eventually receive life through Christ, but are the conditions upon which, at the present time, one can be a true follower of Jesus.
Self-denial as taught by Jesus is not merely the giving up of certain good things to eat, or the foregoing of other pleasures of life. Rather it is the denial of self, a dedication to the Lord that is so complete and wholehearted that self is denied all rights to govern one’s life. It is the giving up completely of one’s own will and ways, and accepting the will of the Lord as the rule of life. It means a complete change of outlook in life, a transforming of the mind to conform to the will of God.—Rom. 12:2
Cross-bearing signifies more than enduring unpleasant experiences. For one to take up his cross and follow Jesus signifies his willingness to suffer and to die with the Master. Those condemned to death under the Roman law carried their own cross to the place of crucifixion. For one to carry a cross, therefore, meant that he was on his way to death, and this is the symbolic meaning of Christian cross-bearing. As Jesus’ disciples, we suffer and die with him.—Rom. 6:3-6; II Tim. 2:11,12
Being a disciple of Christ, therefore, implies much more than living a moral and upright life. It means the dedication of one’s life to the cause of God as it is being carried out through Christ. It means a dedication to this cause that leads to the sacrifice of self and to all self-interests. This is the Christian life.
But the life of sacrifice in the Christian cause has its compensations of peace and joy in the Lord which result from the assurance of having divine approval. This is a peace and joy which is based upon the knowledge that our loving Heavenly Father knows what is best for us, and causes all things to work together for our good.—Rom. 8:28
There are also future compensations for those who faithfully lay down their lives walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The promise to these is that if they faithfully suffer and die with Jesus they will live and reign with him.—Rom. 8:17,18; Rev. 3:21
The purpose of living and reigning with Christ is to share with him in extending blessings of health and life to the remainder of the world of mankind, the blessings which he provided by his own death as the Redeemer and Savior of the world. The invitation to share in Jesus’ exaltation is described by Paul as “the prize of the high calling.”—Phil. 3:14
There is no more important vocation than to be a dedicated follower of the Master, as the answers to these questions will show:
What are the terms of Christian discipleship as laid down by Jesus?
Will the world of mankind in general be expected to meet these terms in order to enjoy everlasting life on earth?
What did Jesus mean by denying self?
What is meant by bearing one’s cross?
What are some of the present compensations enjoyed by those who are laying down their lives in the divine cause?
What are the future rewards for those who suffer and die with Jesus?
What is the purpose of living and reigning with Christ?
“The New Creation,” page 443, par. 2, and page 444.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
To be a true Christian means much more than living an upright and moral life. It means sacrifice even unto death.