M. Scott Peck begins his inspiring book The Road Less Traveled with this profound statement: “Life is difficult!”
Many people today have a different perspective on this. It is easy for us to sit back and want to believe that life should be easy. Instead, the road most travelled is full of complaining about life’s difficulties.
I find that life with Jesus Christ makes life so much easier. However, when one decides to follow Jesus, life is very costly. I believe it is pretty clear in the Sermon on the Mount that living with Jesus actually means walking a road less traveled. Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB) very well describes it. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Jesus also makes it very clear that He promises abundant life to those who will follow Him, while at the same time following Him is difficult and very costly. So if we elect to follow Him, we will travel the road less traveled.
It is one thing to be following Jesus for quite some time and then all of the sudden, He drops this question from Matthew 16:15 on us: “…But who do you say that I am?” If you are like me, you want to quickly say, as the disciples said, “You are the Messiah–the Son of the living God.” What we do not expect Him to say is that He must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law; and that He must be killed and after three days rise again!
In fact, the Apostle Peter could not handle those words and so he said in Matthew 16:22, “…God forbid it, LORD! This shall never happen to you.” Suffering and death just did not fit Peter’s concept of the Messiah. Does it fit in ours?
So what is this cost to follow Jesus? He put it very simple in Mark 8:34-35, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Denying oneself is probably one of the most misunderstood and misapplied commands of our Lord. The word “deny” means “to resist,” “to reject,” or “to refuse.” In essence, it means to say “no.”
To deny oneself simply means to deny your self-lordship. In other words, it is saying “no” to the god who is me! I won’t bow down to my inward self anymore and I say “yes” to Jesus Christ as my Lord.
“Take up your cross.” Many folks just refer to an illness or a disability as their “cross” to bear. Jesus means much more than that. Jesus carried His cross through the streets to His own crucifixion. When a man carried his own cross through the streets, for all practical purposes he was a dead man. A man on his way to crucifixion was compelled to abandon all earthly hopes and ambitions. Jesus was telling us to think of ourselves as already dead, to bury all our earthly hopes and dreams, to bury the plans and agendas we made for ourselves.
Lose your life for My sake. Here is the mystery of the road less traveled. We finally find ourselves when we lose ourselves for Jesus’ sake. But what does that mean? By investing all that we are and have for Him and His gospel. By saying to Him, “Here is my home, my checkbook, my talents and gifts, my brain, my heart, my hands, my feet, my mouth. Lord, all this is Yours. Use it to glorify Yourself and further Your purpose on earth.
The road to Easter goes through Good Friday. The road to new life goes through the death of the old. The road to resurrection goes through crucifixion. Jesus calls us to walk that road, the road He walked.