Putting Christ First
Key Verse: Matthew 16:24
- True Disciples Are Devoted to Christ
- There are three characteristics of man: self, family, possessions. Anyone who places these before the Lord Jesus, cannot be His disciple. This is clearly delineated in the words of Christ.
- "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself" (Matt. 16:24). Love for oneself is a standard for measuring the amount of love we have for others (Matt. 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27). Love for self is innate and is the primary concern of an unbeliever.
- "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
- "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
- Christ did not conceal from inquirers who wanted to follow Him what the grace of God would accomplish in a believer. He did not promise eternal life which resides dormant in the human heart. He offered God's grace which brings a complete change by putting Christ's new life in man. The old nature which puts self, family, or possessions first, is put off by the new nature. "Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds" (Col. 3:9). This "putting off" of the old man is equivalent to believing on the Lord Jesus. It takes God's grace to do this (Eph. 2:8). Christ comes to dwell within us. Our old Adamic nature no longer has uncontested control, but it is not eliminated. Paul had this struggle between the victorious nature of Christ within him and the sin that still dwelt in him. This is why he said, "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" (Rom. 7:17).
- When an unbeliever understands what will automatically take place as a result of salvation, he may be honest enough to reject it like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus (Matt. 19:16--22; Mark 10:17--22; Luke 18:18--23). Jesus told him what must happen in his life for him to receive Christ's grace or eternal life: he must be willing to give up his possessions. Jesus knew that this was not what the man wanted to do but this did not change His declaration of truth. Therefore the man remained rich materially, but spiritually poor.
- The Lord Jesus in no way demands that all who follow Him sell all their belongings and give them to the poor. However, when He saves a person, He must be first in that person's life. Family and possessions must be available for the altar of sacrifice for His sake. The same Christ who told this young man "sell that thou hast, and give to the poor" (Matt. 19:21) also said "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). This same Christ also said "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). What Christ impresses us with is that with Jesus Christ first in our hearts and lives we are always winners. When Jesus Christ is first, I fully enjoy myself, my family, and my possessions. All life is then subject to His command and direction.
- The Call to Cross-Bearing Was for All Who Would Follow Jesus
- The fact that Jesus was speaking to His disciples in Matthew 16:21, 24 has given some people the wrong impression that the call to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus is only addressed to believers.
- In Mark 8:34, however, we see that He was not speaking to his disciples only, "And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also. . ." and also in Luke 9:23, "And he said to them all. . . ."
- He did not address His disciples directly when He said "If any man will come after me" (Matt. 16:24); "Whosoever will come after me . . ." (Mark 8:34); "If any man will come after me . . ." (Luke 9:23). These apply to non-believers just as John 3:16 does. Jesus wanted those who would truly follow Him as His disciples to know that the acceptance of His grace revolutionizes an individual. Christ not only comes to live within, but there is a constant renewal of the new nature which gives the old self last place. There is a glory of grace that no love of self, relatives, or possessions can give. The call to be disciples is to all men, and the first step is trusting in Him for eternal life.
- A Disciple of Christ Lives a Balanced Life
- The Greek verb in Luke 14:33 translated "forsaketh" explains the philosophy of a disciple of Christ. "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." The Greek word is apotássomai derived from apo "from, or away from oneself," and tássomai which means "to place in the proper category." The Lord never taught reckless abandonment of self, relatives, or possessions. He wants us as believers to put them where they belong. They should come after Christ. We should never love God with the love which belongs to self, family, and possessions. The love we have for Him should be unique, leading us to worship. When we give Him the proper love, then our love for others and temporary possessions will fall into its proper place.
- Jesus Christ asserts that a true believer is a disciple who, by constant learning and devotion, loses himself for the sake of his glorious Savior (Matt. 16:24--28; Mark 8:34—9:1; Luke 9:23--27). The joy of the believer, however, is proportionate to his obedience to Christ.