Well, this past week we had the chance to have Joey, Cyndi and little Camden visit us for about four days. It had been over six months since we last were able to visit, so it was good to spend some time with family on a sort of vacation. I did not want to simply “throw something together,” so I took the chance to look into my files and see if there was a lesson from times past which could compliment last week’s lesson that was entitled, “Help Me to Die.” In that lesson we looked to the example of Jesus to see how we might fight against our selfish tendencies. I have chosen a lesson entitled, “Counting the Cost – Your Cross.” It also looks at the idea of what is involved in dying to self. I hope it is an encouragement to you and a reminder to us all that there is more to Christianity than just a name.
There are two words that circulate in the religious world that are very common to us all. As a matter of fact, both of these words we would like to be used to describe us. What are these words? First, there is the word Christian. Used only twice in the New Testament, the word simply means a follower of Christ. Then, there is the word disciple. Used far more in the New Testament, it carries the idea of a learner; a pupil. I believe one can be a disciple and not a Christian. But, I believe if someone claims to be a Christian, the characteristics of a disciple must also be evidenced in their lives.
As I prepare to discuss the verse that follows and its implications, I realize a concern some may have, causing them to perhaps doubt their salvation. Don’t forget what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”. So, don’t lose heart; but instead, allow yourself to honestly examine where you are at right now. Maybe approach it by asking this simple question, “What does Jesus want us to see?”
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, which of these words is spoken of most: believe or follow? As Kyle Idleman noted in his book, most can quote John 3:16 but the “words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 are recorded in three of the four Gospels.” What he went on to say struck me and maybe it will you as well. He said, “There is no believing without following.” I believe this very idea is revealed in the verse above. The invitation is for all when he says “anyone.” Anyone means everyone. It matters not your background, what you have done, how checkered your past may be. The question is, do you believe in His sufficient work on the cross? If so, then He invites you to “come after me.” Kyle Idleman writes, “When Jesus says ‘Come after,’ he’s describing a passionate pursuit of someone you love.” The willingness to “deny self” and “take up his cross daily” so one can follow Jesus reflects that passion.
Thankfully, this willingness is not self-generated. His grace will teach us (Titus 2:11-12). The Spirit is more than willing to lead us (Galatians 5:18). His power is more than sufficient to bring us through (Ephesians 3:20). Do you believe? Then let us pick up that cross and follow Him.