“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross; and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 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? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Matthew 16:24-27
Have you ever owed somebody a debt that you can’t repay? Maybe it’s a credit card bill that’s so large, there is no hope of repayment. Maybe someone did you a favor once, but you can’t return the favor. Have you ever been gifted with something that you couldn’t possibly provide for yourself? Maybe you had a great debt, and someone paid it for you. It is very humbling to know you owe someone and can’t repay the debt.
We hate terms like “obligation”, “duty”, “required” etc. They remind us that we have responsibilities, which we sometimes wish we didn’t have. In our pride, we often fight against placing ourselves in any situation that would obligate us to someone. We prefer to remain in control of our lives and our destinies without the encumbrances of duty and obligation. How easy it is to dismiss ourselves from responsibilities, especially when others won’t require us to be faithful.
I owe a debt that I cannot possibly repay. Years ago, I became aware that I needed to be saved from the punishment I deserved for my sins. There was no hope for me. I was destined to die. Yet the good news is that I discovered someone had already paid my debt. That someone was Jesus Christ. He has gifted me with salvation from the penalty of my sin because He died so I didn’t have to. He did it for love. He loves me and there is nothing I can do about that. I chose to accept His gift, rather than dismiss it and Him. Consequently, I have a new life. No matter how good it gets, I am reminded that I live because He died.
If I hadn’t accepted His gift, then I would have been rewarded according to my works. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much, since my works weren’t any good. How grateful I am that my works are not under His judgment. He gifted me despite my works. In fact, there’s nothing I can do to merit His good favor. You may say that I am free from any obligation to Him, and I am. Yet, how can I not recognize that I owe Him my life? That generates a response in me to follow Him.
A true disciple is humbled by the debt that cannot be repaid. The obligation is a yoke we put on willingly and gladly. We take up our cross which is not our current hardship, but is instead our desire to serve Him. Our service becomes a life of self-sacrifice and obligation to others, only because we choose to.
I have a debt that I cannot repay. My debtor does not require me to repay Him. He asks only that I take up my cross and follow Him. It seems a small thing, but the ramifications are enormous.
He withheld nothing from me, so how can I withhold anything from Him?
Blest Be the Everlasting God
by Isaac Watts
Blest be the everlasting God,
The Father of our Lord;
Be God’s unbounding mercy praised,
And majesty adored.
When God raised Jesus from the dead,
When Christ arose on high,
God gave our souls a lively hope
That we should never die.
To an inheritance divine
God taught our hearts to rise:
‘Tis uncorrupted, undefiled,
Unfading in the skies.
Saints by the power of God are kept
Until salvation come;
We walk by faith as strangers here,
But Christ shall call us home.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” John 14:1-4 (KJV)