To really explain our hymn of the day, I think I must speak for a bit about the Gospel reading. Our Gospel reading for this Sunday comes from Luke 14, verses 25-35. I’m going to post 25-27 here.
25Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
This is one of those texts that are easily and often mishandled and misinterpreted. The poor preaching I’ve heard on this passage usually goes something like this, “Jesus wants you to know the difference between just being a believer and being a true disciple. If you want to take your faith to the next level you need to become a disciple. Are you ready to give everything up and become a true disciple for Jesus?”
Now what does that kind of preaching do to the poor lay person in the congregation? The congregation then has to figure out whether they are “real disciples” or “just believers”. What a horrible burden on the conscience!
It is best to explain this passage from the perspective of the theology of the cross, which has two main components.
- We know God as He reveals Himself. Specifically, we know God through Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose for us to save us from our sins and give us eternal life.
- God refines His own through suffering.
If you believe in Jesus, then you are forgiven for His sake. You don’t have to worry about whether you are a disciple or a believer because you are either a Christian or you are not. When it comes to our justification, it really is that simple. Here in Luke 14, Jesus is explaining to us the marks of the Christian life. The Christian life is marked by suffering. Our families may forsake us, we may be persecuted, we may lose everything earthly thing we value and treasure, but we have eternal life in Christ. This is the Christian life, and Jesus is honest and up-front about it.
Now, finally, we make it to the sermon hymn, “Come, Follow Me”, the Savior Spake. This hymn presents Jesus as the example for us in our lives. Here’s stanza 1:
“Come, follow Me,” the Savior spake,
“All in My way abiding;
Deny yourselves, the world forsake,
Obey My call and guiding.
O bear the cross, whate’er betide,
Take My example for your guide.
Our savior calls us to a life of obedience. We are, after all, slaves to Christ. I love the third line “Deny yourselves, the world forsake,”. As Jesus’ disciples, we die to this world and live for Him. Another important thing to keep in mind in this hymn are the quotation marks. The first four stanzas are to be understood as words from Christ and the last stanza is the Christian response.
“I am the light, I light the way,
A godly light displaying;
I bid you walk as in the day;
I keep your feet from straying.
I am the way, and well I show
How you must sojourn here below.
Jesus is the light of the world, and he bids us to leave behind the deeds of darkness and live in the light of Christ. He has set a perfect example for us to follow.
“My heart abounds in lowliness,
My soul with love is glowing;
And gracious words My lips express
With meekness overflowing.
My heart, My mind, My strength, My all,
To God I yield, on Him I call.
Here’s where the quotation marks are so important, otherwise this stanza become a sort of altar call. Jesus humbled Himself for us, yielding to the will of His Father in all things, even submitting to die a horrible death upon the cross. Yet His soul glows with love.
“I teach you how to shun and flee
What harms your soul’s salvation,
Your heart from ev’ry guile to free,
From sin and its temptation.
I am the refuge of the soul
And lead you to your heav’nly goal.”
This stanza brings to mind Jesus’ temptation in the desert as well as His promise to give rest to the weary. It is so important to remember that He is the refuge of our soul, not the things Jesus mentioned in the Gospel reading, such as our families, everything we have, and our own lives. Our comfort comes from Christ alone.
And now for Stanza 5, our response:
Then let us follow Christ our Lord,
And take the cross appointed
And, firmly clinging to His Word,
In suf’fring be undaunted.
For those who bear the battle’s strain
The crown of heavenly life obtain.