This past Sunday was Reformation Day so instead of preaching from Exodus (the book we are working through in the morning services at Grace), I chose a subject based on Matthew 10:34-39. When we think of the legacy left us by the Reformers, what usually comes first to mind is their teaching – justification by faith, the supremacy of Scripture, and so on. Or we think of their insistence that the worship of God must be according to Scripture. Indeed, as a Reformed congregation Grace OPC adheres to the doctrine of the Reformation and worships according to the principles so carefully worked out by the first Protestants.
But another aspect of the legacy we’ve inherited from the Reformation is just as important. That is, they left us an example of what it means to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ in a world that is often hostile to biblical truth and righteousness. In their faithfulness in the face of opposition and persecution, our 16th and 17th century forebears were living illustrations of what Jesus meant when he called his disciples to take his cross and follow him.
I am always awed and humbled when I read of the courageous faith of ordinary men and women who suffered and even died for the sake of Christ. Would I be as steadfast and brave as the French Huguenots who, before being burned alive, often had their tongues cut out by their killers to silence their singing Psalms of praise to God? They knew what Jesus meant when he said we must take up his cross to be his disciples.
But even though we enjoy the freedom to serve and worship Christ that many of the first Protestants could only dream about, Jesus’ call to take up his cross in this world is no less applicable to us. We may not suffer persecution for the sake of Christ, but if we are to be disciples of Jesus (and salvation is impossible apart from this) we must die to ourselves. That is, I must put to death the natural bent of my heart, which is to live a self-centered life fulfilling my desires and pleasing myself. To take up the cross of Jesus means to submit to his will in all things, to obey him, and to be a servant of others for the sake of Christ.
The cost of discipleship is nothing less than death to myself. But the reward of being a follower of Christ is more than worth it. Jesus promised, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). To die to self for the sake of Christ means nothing less than everlasting life. The Reformers willingly sacrificed all for Christ because of this hope. They knew that on the other side of the flames what awaited them was the blessing of never-ending life and bliss in the presence of Jesus Christ.
The first Protestants took to heart what Jesus taught, both of the cost and the reward of being his disciple. Though we live in vastly different circumstances, may we bear the cross of Jesus as well – dying to ourselves and living to please our gracious Lord and Savior.
At the evening service I spoke on Galatians 6:6-10. Here we are encouraged to be steadfast in doing good. To do so is to sow to the Spirit, and God promises that the “one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).
Soli Deo Gloria!