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“IF ANYONE SERVES ME, HE MUST FOLLOW ME”
by Philip Owen

            One of the great paradoxes of Scripture is that salvation is absolutely free yet immeasurably expensive.  On the one hand, it is impossible to buy, barter, earn, or merit salvation, which is freely bestowed by God to whom He will through faith.  On the other hand, it costs the believer everything.  The easy-believism of this age that teaches that it is possible for someone to receive eternal life, to be removed from the kingdom of darkness and placed in the kingdom of light, to be cleansed from sin and brought into fellowship with the Father and with His Son yet never feel so much as a bump in the road he has been traveling is contrary both to reason and especially to Scripture.  At its core, salvation is a life-altering experience.  It is radical and revolutionary, not in the sense made popular by the anti-government hippies and their descendants, but in the sense that it completely overthrows the “government” that rules and reigns in the unregenerate heart.   As the Lord said, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me” (John 12:26a).

            The Deluded Crowd.  The words quoted above were spoken by Christ following His so-called triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday just prior to His crucifixion.    The scene has been burned into our minds.  Near the Mount of Olives just outside the eastern wall, the Lord Jesus mounts the unbroken colt of a donkey and begins to ride toward the temple.  As many as two million people were in the environs of Jerusalem, having come from all over the inhabited world to celebrate Passover; many of them throng the broad street on which the Lord rides.  Someone raises a shout, quoting Psalm 118, a prophecy concerning the Messiah:  “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest” (Matt. 21:9).  One takes up the cry in front, then another behind, and another, until the street is ringing with the sound of jubilant voices.  Some run and cut down palm branches (a symbol of the promised kingdom) and spread them in the road before the Lord.  But “most of the crowd spread their coats in the road” (Matt. 21:8) as the throng becomes an exultant procession.  They  shout and sing the glories of the Messiah.  They have exercised themselves to climb up into trees, saw off branches, drag them back to the street, and lay them in the path of the Lord.  They have offered valuable stuff, sacrificing their coats in the dust and under the feet of the donkey bearing the Lord.  But the crowd is deluded—not concerning the fact that Jesus is the Christ, their Messiah—but that their ecstatic zeal and enthusiastic works had anything at all to do with saving faith.  Before the week is out, most will be screaming with equal fervor for Christ’s crucifixion.

            The Deliberate Christ.  Among the throng were some Greeks who found Philip and asked if they might see Jesus.  The Lord answered the request very soberly.  The elation they had just seen, and perhaps participated in, the giddy and powerful emotions, the superficial acts of worship, the Lord suggested, were not the essence of salvation.  “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.  If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also” (John 12:25, 26a).   As powerful and impressive as they may be, the feelings and actions motivated by emotion are not salvation.  One who would be saved must follow the Lord, not with fleeting emotions, not with empty bursts of religious activity, but in genuine, life-changing faith, with a heart, mind, and will united in the Lord.  The one who is being saved must humble himself, acknowledging his own sin, recognizing the righteousness in Christ alone; he must submit to the way set forth by the Father and executed by the Son.  He must separate from the noisy crowd; he must shun the popular religious activities, and he must enter vicariously by faith into the suffering and death of Christ.

            This way is not optional, not one of many.  Not one that will vary.  The Lord is not like many  feckless modern parents.  The fact that one must follow the Lord will not change. We need only add that following is not the means of salvation but the proof, not the cause but its fruit.  As surely as an apple tree must produce apples and nothing else, so the one who is redeemed must produce a walk that imitates Christ.  There is no other way.  Are you following Christ?  

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