“And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)
Growing up I never felt like I had anyone I could really look up to, except an older brother who did not give a very good example, but I followed in his footsteps anyway.
The truth is, we will always find someone that we learn from, whether it is a close family member, a best friend, or a celebrity that we adore. We tend to model our own lives after those we follow the closest.
As Christians the same is true, which is why we need a healthy discipleship relationship in our life; we need someone that models godly behavior in their life to help guide and shape godly living in our life. But this kind of relationship doesn’t come easy; there is a very high cost of doing discipleship.
In Luke 9:23, after Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ, Jesus tells His disciples and indirectly tells us the high cost of following Him.
First, Jesus says that to follow Him, one must “deny himself.” This word in Greek, arneomai, is a strong word meaning that one must entirely forget himself. In other words, the person identifying themselves with Christ as a follower must put away their own desires and passions.
Now it is easy to say we can do this but, when it comes to living a life of self-denial, it becomes a real challenge for us. We live in a culture that is constantly telling us to live for ourselves, to follow our hearts and desires. To live a self-denying life is to live counter to the culture. For example, the average person spends about 7 hours in front of a screen, whether it’s a computer, television or phone screen. Denying ourselves an hour or two of that time each day to spend studying the Bible, either with someone else or privately, would be to start living a self-denying lifestyle.
Take Up Your Cross
Second, Jesus tells us that we must “take up our crosses daily” if we want to be true disciples. The cross was known as a device of execution used by the Romans and if anyone was seen carrying a cross, it was a sure sign that they would be put to death.
Phillip Ryken quotes Leon Morris saying this about taking up the cross, “When a man from one of their villages took up a cross and went off with a little band of Roman soldiers, he was on a one-way journey. He’d not be back. Taking up the cross meant the utmost in self-denial.”
This is a very striking way of telling the disciples that self-denial is a must in the life of a follower of Christ, and it is no different for us today.
Third, Jesus told them that they must “follow Me.” Following the radical call to self-denial, Jesus is telling the disciples that they must follow Him even to death. Jesus had just told them what was going to happen to Him on the cross, and He is calling them to follow Him to the cross.
Again, it is easy for us to say we are followers of Christ but, when the persecution comes, and it will, will we continue to say we are followers of Christ? Each one of the disciples, and many more after them, suffered horrible deaths in their perseverance for following Christ. Are we willing to suffer a horrible death in the name of Christ? That’s not a question most of us must answer today. Only time will tell.
The choice we can make, and need to make, every morning is whether we will be committed to Christ and live sacrificially as the disciples did. Will we follow Christ when it’s not convenient? Will we seek Him when we don’t feel like it?
Be Discipled To Make Disciples
This is the high cost of discipleship; a self-denying, wholly committed walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we can make disciples, we must first be a disciple. Click To Tweet It is in our being a disciple that others begin to take notice and model their lives around being committed disciples themselves.
In making disciples (Matt. 28:19) we are teaching others these same principles and how to live out what the Scriptures teach us. Because, if we truly love God, we will keep His commandments (John 14:5). Christians, this should be of utmost importance to us!
Let us follow the calling of Christ to be committed disciples – loving God, living in obedience, and teaching others to do the same.