Now please group these six sweeping statements in your mind and hold them together there. Then notice carefully this fact. These words are not spoken to the crowds. They are spoken to the small inner group of twelve disciples. Jesus talks one way to the multitude. He oftentimes talks differently to these men who have separated themselves from the crowd and come into the inner circle.
And notice further that before Jesus spoke these words to this group of men He had said something else first. Something very radical; so radical that it led to a sharp passage between Himself and Peter, to whom He speaks very sternly. This something else fixes unmistakably their relation to Himself. Remember that the sharp break with the national leaders has come. Jesus is charged with Satanic collusion. The death plot is determined upon. The breach with the leaders is past the healing point. And now the Master is frequently slipping away from the crowd with these twelve men, and seeking to teach and train them. That is the setting of these great promises. It must be kept continually in mind.
Before the Master gave Himself away to these men in these promises He said this something else. It is this. I quote Matthew's account: |If any man would come after Me let him deny himself and take up his cross (daily, Luke's addition) and follow Me.| These words should be written crosswise over those six prayer statements. Jesus never spoke a keener word. Those six promises are not meant for all. Let it be said very plainly. They are meant only for those who will square their lives by these razor-edged words.
I may not go fully into the significance of these deep-cutting words here. They have been gone into at some length in a previous set of talks as suggesting the price of power. To him whose heart burns for power in prayer I urge a careful review of that talk in this new setting of it. |If any man would come after Me| means a rock-rooted purpose; the jaw locked; the tendrils of the purpose going down around and under the gray granite of a man's will, and tying themselves there; and knotting the ties; sailor knots, that you cannot undo.
|Come after Me| means all the power of Jesus' life, and has the other side, too. It means the wilderness, the intense temptation. It may mean the obscure village of Nazareth for you. It may mean that first Judean year for you -- lack of appreciation. It may mean for you that last six months -- the desertion of those hitherto friendly. It will mean without doubt a Gethsemane. Everybody who comes along after Jesus has a Gethsemane in his life. It will never mean as much to you as it meant to Him. That is true. But, then, it will mean everything to you. And it will mean too having a Calvary in your life in a very real sense, though different from what that meant to Him. This sentence through gives the process whereby the man with sin grained into the fibre of his will may come into such relationship with God as to claim without any reservation these great prayer promises. And if that sound hard and severe to you let me quickly say that it is an easy way for the man who is willing. The presence of Jesus in the life overlaps every cutting thing.
If a man will go through Matthew 16:24, and habitually live there he may ask what he wills to ask, and that thing will come to pass. The reason, without question, why many people do not have power in prayer is simply because they are unwilling -- I am just talking very plainly -- they are unwilling to bare their breasts to the keen-edged knife in these words of Jesus. And on the other side, if a man will quietly, resolutely follow the Master's leading -- nothing extreme -- nothing fanatical, or morbid, just a quiet going where that inner Voice plainly leads day by day, he will be startled to find what an utterly new meaning prayer will come to have for him.