8 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Deuteronomy 16:1–17:20
Luke 9:7-27
Psalm 72:1-20
Proverbs 12:8-9

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Luke 9:23 (CSB): “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Sometimes, it is helpful and necessary to change our vocabulary.

Words morph. They lose and gain nuance. They sometimes even get redefined.

When I was a young child, I watched The Flintstones on television. Decades later, I can still remember most of the words to the theme song. The final words were: “…we’ll have a gay old time.” I suspect you immediately realize that those words don’t mean what they used to mean.

So while I enjoy using the word “Christian” which has been around in different languages for 2000 years (Acts 11:26), I often use the words “Jesus-follower.”

I’ve knocked on enough doors in neighborhoods and talked to enough people to realize that most people still feel comfortable calling themselves a Christian even though they rarely ever go to church, rarely ever read their Bible, rarely ever feel conviction over private sin, … essentially giving no evidence whatsoever that they are a true believer (Matthew 7:15-20).

The term, “Jesus-follower,” is just as biblical and hasn’t been distorted in our culture. So, I use it quite often. After all, a true Christian is someone who follows Jesus.

Luke 9:23 (CSB): “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'”

It is in those words of Jesus that we come to understand that being a Jesus-follower (Christian) isn’t simply a decision. It is a lifestyle. It isn’t limited to a moment in time. It is something that will affect every day of our life.

So, what are the three requirements of following Jesus?

1. Deny Self

Luke 9:23 (CSB): “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'”

Salvation isn’t simply a Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card. It is a New Birth (John 3:3). We are born again.

In that New Birth, we receive the forgiveness of sins because of Jesus’ payment on the cross. Our New Birth occurs at the moment that we are purchased by Jesus. His payment for our sins also purchased us as His possession.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CSB): “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.”

Honestly, the previous words are “slave talk.” If you are saved, you don’t belong to yourself anymore because Someone bought you.

A slave doesn’t wake up in the morning and set his own agenda. He doesn’t determine what he wants to do. His task, instead, is to do what his master wants him to do. If you want to really dive into this truth, purchase and devour John MacArthur’s book, “Slave.” Virtually everyone of the New Testament writers began at least one of their books by claiming to be a “Slave of Christ.”

So, to be a Jesus follower means that you recognize that you are His property, His slave. And as such, you deny yourself so that you can say ‘yes’ to Him.

That means you are going to be spending daily time in His Word as you familiarize yourself with what He says. You will also live in conscious submission to Him in the moments of your days. And when you stray from what He has commanded, you will acknowledge it as sin, repent, and get back on the road of submitting to Him.

While this may sound like it is oppressive, it is actually the most liberating, adventure-filled truth you could imagine. Following Jesus will always be an adventure. You will break out of the mundane and enter into the life that the God of all Creation has called you to.

2. Take Up One’s Cross

Luke 9:23 (CSB): “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'”

You may have heard well-intentioned folks say: “This is my cross to bear.” By saying that, they convey that the difficulties of life are their “cross.” They are well-intentioned … but they are wrong.

Taking up one’s cross may not be understood by 21st century folks but it make perfect sense to 1st century Jesus-followers.

When someone broke Rome’s laws, they were essentially claiming sovereignty over Rome. They were saying that they didn’t care what Rome had to say, they were going to do whatever they wanted to do.

Well, if their crime was big enough, Rome was going to have the final word. If the crime was big enough that the criminal was sentenced to die, they would be forced to carry their own cross upon their backs. This signified that Rome had the final word. It illustrated that while the criminal had thought that they didn’t have to submit to Rome and it’s laws, the cross upon their back signified that Rome was sovereign after all.

But, there’s one more thing. The cross was an instrument of death. The criminal who carried a cross was soon going to die upon that cross.

So, what did Jesus mean when He said that we must “take up our cross?”

He was saying that we must live in conscious submission to God. Further, He was saying that we needed to die to ourselves. Because it is only then that we can experience the true power of the Christian life.

Galatians 2:20 (CSB): “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The irony of Jesus’ words is that dying to self is the only way to truly live. In essence, we are dyin’ to live.

3. Follow Jesus

Luke 9:23 (CSB): “Then he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.'”

It’s not enough to deny ourselves and die to self. We must also follow Him.

That makes sense, right? If we are to be a Jesus-follower, then we must follow Jesus.

We must spend much time in His Word, much time in prayer, and we must live in conscious submission to Him as “yes” is on our lips before we even know what He wants us to do.

Conclusion

Even though there appear to be three requirements to be a Jesus-follower, they are essentially the same thing.

No to self.

Die to self.

Yes to Jesus.

Friends, a Christian, a Jesus-follower, is so much more than simply a person who has supposedly asked God to forgive them and save them. Being a Christian, a Jesus-follower, is a lifestyle of living for Jesus.

Someone who claims that they are a Christian, a Jesus-follower, and yet lives for themselves has no basis whatsoever to claim relationship with Jesus.

A true Jesus-follower … follows Jesus.

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Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash