Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24
On Monday, we considered Jesus’s identity. He is the Christ, which means He is the chosen, set apart sacrifice for sins. A few verses later He defines discipleship. Note that discipleship is not a temporary thing. It is a complete change in lifestyle. Goals, approach, philosophy, outlook. Everything changes forever. It is a choice, an active decision of the will. “If anyone desires.” Some translations say wish, or want to. Jesus makes the offer to follow Him, but He doesn’t force us to.
Deny yourself. This is the same word use about Peter on the night Jesus was on trial. Peter denied Jesus. Denied he knew him or was associated with Him at all. It means to deny the self and its tendency to indulgence. Its tendency to be lazy. Or unkind. Or concerned only with its own comforts or likes. We deny our tiny limited vision in favor a greater eternal one.
Take up your cross. Be willing to endure whatever is necessary, whatever He asks. Not fitting in because you don’t keep up with the latest TV and movies. Leaving your job or moving to a smaller house to take a ministry position. Enduring a diagnosis. Spending your life savings on legal fees to defend your beliefs. Breaking an engagement. Losing a friendship. Losing your life. All because we understand there are greater kingdom purposes at work. Or at least acknowledge it.
Follow Me. Follow His example. More than the cheesy WWJD bracelets. It’s moment by moment, situation by situation, imitating Jesus. His attitude. His compassion. His selflessness. His humility. His service. His kingdom focus. His submission to the Father.
In The Message, this verse reads, Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Matthew 16:24
Intend. Sometimes, I think I intend to follow Jesus just like I intend to clean out my attic. I want to. I know it needs to be done. I know I’ll be glad when it’s accomplished … but there are so many other things I need to do, so many other things I’d rather do.
But then, intend leads me to intentional, something that is active and decisive, done with resolve and commitment. That sounds more like discipleship. Really, as the next verses line out, it’s the only reasonable response to the Christ, the Son of the Living God.