If you’ve ever attended “Church Incorporated” for any length of time, at some point you were probably taught how you need to “count the cost” and “carry your cross.” These words came from Jesus when He was speaking to certain Jewish followers and would-be disciples. Most people have been taught to assume Jesus was also speaking to future generations of believers, including us today.
As we begin to shift our mindset to an entirely different paradigm, we begin to realize on many occasions that Jesus wasn’t providing instruction for us on how to achieve a higher spiritual stature, but He was attempting to show the Jewish people who were still under the Mosaic law how they would never be able to meet the required standard of perfection that the law demanded in that first covenant. Jesus put it this way:
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:27-30).
In the Greek language, a disciple is simply a pupil or student, nothing more. It meant becoming exactly like the teacher (see Luke 6:40). But unlike what we’ve been taught through religious doctrines, this would not be accomplished through a person’s effort of good works and dedication. Jesus isn’t encouraging these Jewish people under the law to pay the price and carry a cross, He was revealing they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost that only He could pay. He is stating they may be able to start the project, but they would need to count the cost and realize they would never be able to say the words, “it is finished.” The cost was too much for us to pay! Ultimately, He was attempting to show those under the law that they would need to look to Him instead of themselves.
“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33). That’s a biggie. If you want to identify yourself as a true follower and disciple of Jesus in order to become more like Him through what you do, have you sold everything and given it away? Probably not. Why? Either because you are being selective about the teachings of Jesus, or … and I hope we can go with this: You know in your heart of hearts He wasn’t speaking directly to you, but to those He was with prior to His suffering on the cross. If this is not the case, we’re in trouble … but that wouldn’t be the gospel … which is always good news.
Did these people have any clue as to what Jesus was talking about by carrying their own cross? Of course not. They couldn’t even wrap their minds around Jesus rising from the dead, even though he stated it quite plainly. In fact, right before Jesus said they would need to carry their own cross, He told them he would need to suffer, die and would rise again on the third day (see Luke chapter 9). He said whoever wishes to save their life would lose it. Nobody should try to save themselves and there is no need for us to do what Jesus did by suffering with our own cross. Whereas Jesus carried the cross once and for all, you and I would’ve been required to do it daily, much like the repeated animal sacrifices which could not take away sin.
Everyone is undeserving of the title of disciple when it comes to being like Jesus and following His lead—which is defined by doing everything perfectly and actually carrying a cross that brings redemption. The work He completed at His cross was more than enough. Ask one-hundred pastors what it means to count the cost and carry your cross, and you’ll receive just as many different answers. Here is a radical thought … suppose Jesus was not using mysterious hyperbole, but meant exactly what He said. The vantage point we have by being positioned in a New Covenant allows us to see that Jesus wasn’t really encouraging or expecting us to carry a cross that only He could successfully endure. We might be better off counting the cross (one), and grasping that Jesus carried the cost (all of it).
Here is the clincher on why we know Jesus was not speaking directly to us: There is nothing in new covenant writings from the apostles about us carrying our own cross in order to be a disciple of Jesus. There is “the” cross that only Jesus would be able to bear, and He did for us what the law of commandments could not do, nor what we could not do for ourselves. In fact, the word disciple never appears again after the book of Acts. If being a direct disciple of Jesus was an integral part of our identity as a believer, surely one of the apostles would’ve mentioned it at least once or twice. Do we carry a cross? No. Count the cost? Yes, by realizing Jesus paid it all and there is nothing we can do to add to it. “The now and the not yet” is theological mumbo jumbo—we can’t improve upon what is already finished.
For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon