My text is a reason for discipleship.
Jesus had said in the verse which precedes my text: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
This is a bitter pill to swallow.
Yet, with a view to God and His judgment, and with a view to the Kingdom of Heaven it is wisdom and pays eternal dividends.
My text is the reason for following Jesus, we said, and that is correct.
Suppose you save your earthly life, and enjoy it to the full: what have you to look forward to? This: hell and eternal damnation.
Suppose you follow Jesus’ advice, and lose your earthly life, meaning that your life is nothing but misery, then what? This: heaven and everlasting joy.
Let’s look at this reason closely.
Let us look first of all at the life that is lost for Christ’s sake.
Life is sweet, there is no mistake about that.
It is the life we received at birth, our life that is here below with all its earthly ties and relationships. And it is very sweet to man.
It begins with the sweetness of looking up into the loving eyes of mother, and father. Later, there are the ties of brother and sister, uncles and aunts, grandfather and grandmother, and so on. Lovely ties.
There is the eating and drinking, and the enjoyments of the untold earthy things around us from our youth.
Oh, how we cling to this life that is earthly.
There is form, shape, color, and beauteous harmony in a million things. I remember how I felt when I first saw the moon in the darkness of evening. I remember how I felt when first I saw the ocean. I was about 3 or 4 years old, and I was so amazed that I fell flat in the dunes above Noordwyk.
Then there is music, singing and melody. Oh, that world of music and singing.
But why go on? You all know it. When you get sick all of a sudden, there is the blanched cheek, the frozen feeling around the heart, the shocking question: What does this mean? Am I dying? Call the doctor! Quickly!
How passionately we cling to this life that is from below.
Oh, yes, it is the life that is from below.
Do not be fooled, this earthly life is sweet to us, but it is really very sour.
Our whole life is corrupted by sin from the cradle to our deathbed.
Our life with all its smiles and sweetness is constantly under the curse of God. God stands by our cradle, and while father, mother and all our lovers stand around about the cradle, God stands there too.
And God stands there cursing! He curses every child that is born.
Later we walk to school, and God accompanies us to school, and all along the way He curses me.
Still later I clasp my wife to my bosom, but God curses both me and my bride.
And God continues to curse me and my world-and earth-life.
And he will do that until I die, and you bury me. And then I will experience His curse like never before.
People forget: the Word that never lies states: For our God is a consuming fire!
Oh yes! God curses our lives that are from below.
Shall I give you your real name? A name that fits you to a T?
It is CHILD OF WRATH!
Your whole life, from its conception to the last sob, is cursed!
Why do you think God created hellfire?
Here is the answer: because of our sin. God is just.
Now then, do you want to save that earthly life by hook or by crook?
Of course, we must save our earthly life in a certain sense. Our text does not mean suicide. We are commanded to take good care of it.
But here is the point of the text: God directs our attention to our spiritual attitude over against our earthly life.
Are you going to defend that life over against God’s condemnation?
When God says to you: You are a corrupt sinner! And you are guilty unto eternal hellfire! What is then your answer?
Are you going to defend your earthly life even at the expense of God’s honor and glory?
Are you going to love that life which is cursed by God?
Look at that earthly baby, boy, lad, young man, old man!
God says to him: Love Me in all you are, think, speak and act! Love Me from the cradle to the grave.
And what is the answer? You know it. It is filthy!
Are you going to maintain that life by hook or by crook?
Are you going to love that life which make the Angels weep?
Then you are going to lose it. That’s all.
If you identify yourselves with your earth-life, you are going to perish with it.
You simply did not harmonize with the only purpose for time and eternity, and that only purpose is this: the praises of the adorable Jehovah!
Now let us look at the life that is saved.
Like a lightning flash the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ descends from heaven, and it strikes you in your inmost heart. And the effect of that FLASH is that you receive a new life, a life that never was from this sorry earth. It was not even like the life that Adam and Eve enjoyed. For it is a life that comes straight from heaven. It makes you a heavenly being.
And the moment that heavenly life of your heart enters your consciousness in repentance, you hate your life. You hate this earthly life with a cruel hatred. Christ spoke of that while walking on this earth. He even said that we should hate our father and our mother if they would interfere with our service of God.
No, it does not mean that we should no longer do our earthly duties and callings. Oh no, a Christian is supposed to be the best farmer, the best carpenter, the best clerk, etc.
But it means that this life on earth with its sweetest ties is not our highest yearning.
We become strangers, sojourners and pilgrims on this sorry earth. And we long for God and for Christ and for heaven with its utmost perfection.
It means that he condemns his life, his whole life, for it is sinful from its inception to its completion. We hate our life for God’s sake.
Sometimes we hate our life very concretely.
Our fathers stood often before the choice: what do you want, this life or Jesus? And they chose Jesus and gave their life. That happened in the days of persecution when untold thousands gave their earthly life, because they loved their heavenly life and its Author better than anything else.
And those days will come back.
Today it takes nothing to be a Christian. People will even tip the hat at you.
But wait for the day of Anti-Christ!
Then the church will stand again before the choice: what will it be: your life or Jesus!
We pray that we will be ready for that day. It may not be far off.
The life that is gained is the life of Christ.
That life is earned by Him, merited by Him on the terrible cross. There He paid the price for the millions of lives of the saints of all the ages. There He purchased our pardon and the inclusion in the heavenly hosts.
That life which we love with all our heart is called in the Bible: eternal life.
And that eternal life is the knowledge of God.
That life is really citizenship in heaven. There in heaven is our real life. And it is the reason why Paul tells you right now in 1962: “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead (that is, to this earthly life and sin), and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” Col. 3:2-4.
Now, let me assure you that this life that is saved is glorious.
Very often the Christians are pitied. And the world says: what a pity! Those people have nothing to their lives.
How utterly mistaken they are. We have heaven and heaven’s music and melody in our hearts and homes.
Let us look at their treasures. Let us compare values.
Suppose you gain the whole world. And that is a lot. What then?
Well, I have all peoples. I am Dictator to all men living on the earth. They all do my bidding. I have all the riches of the earth. I have all the pleasures of sin.
But what about your soul? Can you feed your soul with harlotry, deceit, violence, corruption of every sort?
Don’t you realize that with all the world at your bidding, you. What can you offer God in exchange for your soul?
Judgment is coming!
God shall sit on the throne and demand your soul from you. What can you offer God in exchange for your soul? Can you buy back your soul which you lost in the pleasure of sin and the Mammon?
Look at Moses.
He stood at the crossroads. On the one side his earthly life in Egypt with all the pleasures and the riches of Egypt. On the other side discipleship with God, but with it the reproach of Christ and the suffering with God’s people.
He made the choice. Yes, but never forget that FLASH from heaven. Moses was made anew. He was born again. It was God’s work.
What’s your choice? Have you a new heart? Then you love the life of Christ.