And He strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."
It was sophomore year, and I needed to register for an elective. The teacher came highly recommended, and the subject seemed practical and helpful, so I enrolled in Intro to Financial Accounting. Despite my noble intentions, my adventure in accounting led to the lowest grade of my college career. However, I did learn a valuable lesson: accounting is not as simple as it seems. That reality is even more evident as we consider the “accounting” we do in life. We are constantly counting the cost: the cost of buying a home, having children, eating healthy, treating an illness, pursuing a relationship. But our accounting often neglects the other side of the equation: the cost of not buying the home, not having children, not eating healthy, not treating the illness, not pursuing the relationship. These few examples illustrate what we often struggle to see: the cost of not doing something can be far greater than the cost of doing it.
In Luke 9 and several other passages, Jesus offers an intro to accounting in an upside-down kingdom. As the crowds gather around Jesus, He gives a strange invitation. “If anyone would come after Me,” He says, “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” For us, a cross may be a beautiful piece of art in a sanctuary or on a necklace, but for Jesus’s audience, they would have known exactly what He meant. A cross is an instrument of torture and execution. Jesus just invited us to follow Him to our death. The marketing experts may hate the pitch, but Jesus understands what’s at stake in our accounting. If we refuse to follow Him, we can go on living however we want. That seems like life, but at the end, will gaining the whole world mean anything if we are lost for eternity? What is the cost of turning our backs on the Author of Life? Underneath Jesus’s call to die is an invitation to live, to share in His sufferings that we might also share in the power of His resurrection. In the upside-down kingdom, we must die to live. We must lose ourselves to find ourselves. For those with ears to hear and eyes to see, the cost of non-discipleship is far greater than the cost of discipleship.
The issue is not if but how we have been guilty of questionable accounting. Have we lived like forgiveness costs more than bitterness? Like rest costs more than busyness? Like generosity costs more than greed? Like serving the Lord costs more than serving ourselves? How have self-fulfillment, self-promotion, and self-sufficiency afflicted our lives? As we see our selfishness, we have a beautiful opportunity to see our Savior. Jesus Christ knew the cost of taking up His cross – “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me” (Luke 22:42). But thanks be to God! He knew the cost of not taking up His cross – “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Do we realize that our self was crucified with Him, and that we have been raised with Him, with new hearts and new eyes? Brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to see the staggering cost of non-discipleship. No matter what crosses come our way, can we count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8)?