If you are like me, it doesn’t matter how many times I read a scripture or passage, the Holy Spirit has a way of illuminating it each time I read it, showing me something that I didn’t see before or even prompting me to dig for a deeper understanding AND sometimes there can be certain things going on in my life or even around me, that the scripture will confirm that I'm on the right path, I need to pick up the pace, or I am falling short in an area and need to examine myself and repent.
In my study time I was reading Matthew 16 and vs 24-26 spoke to me. It says this, "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. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" I began to think about the things that we see going forth in the world particularly by those who are naming the name Christ and I thought about myself, whether I was really following Christ as his disciple according to His way or my own. This is not about judging anyone to condemnation, but it made me take a good look at what’s around me and who I choose to follow. There are so many with big names, big titles, and huge followings. You have those who wave all the flags regardless of what they represent and say in the name of love that they are walking with Jesus, you have those that say it doesn’t take all this prayer, reading the bible or going to church but they still love Jesus, and many other categories of persons and choices to follow. And it is so easy to get caught up in following people and culture and forget about the Master Teacher.
Social media is flooded with those who call themselves apostles, prophets, evangelist, teachers, and pastors. I am not saying that they all are not, but many are not.
My objective here is to steer us back to the Word regarding true discipleship in Christ.
Jesus said in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do the things that I say?”
So, who is a disciple? A learner, a pupil, one who follows another’s teachings, one who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. There are many teachers to follow. We know that Buddha has disciples, Mohammed has disciples, many others have disciples in the earth, so we must differentiate because there is no leader, no Lord greater to follow than our Savior Jesus Christ. The truth of the matter is following his lead, his Word, and his ways, keeps us safe and secure in Him and from being so comfortable with worldliness or accepting others or things that are contrary to the Word of God. The closer we are to Jesus, the more we know Him, the more we can recognize what is not of Him. We should continually be transforming to the Word of God and not conforming to the world.
Jesus was going to the cross and he wanted to prepare the disciples for his departure, informing them that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. He then gave specific instructions on how they should live their lives to be His disciples. I dare not say that it is an easy road, but He promised that He would be with us. (Matthew 28:20). As Jesus instructed his disciples then, those same instructions apply to us as followers today.
Jesus said, if any desired him, "let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow him." Self-denial in a world of all about "me" is in opposition to this call. The word deny here means to forget oneself, lose sight of oneself and one's own interests in the sense that Jesus is head of our lives, not us. The Apostle Paul said it this way, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ," Philippians 3:7-8. As believers, we now belong to Christ, and he should have first place in our lives. Denying ourselves does not mean that we do not take care of ourselves or neglect our family. We see this in 1 Timothy 5:8, but we must put Jesus first in all that we do. Taking up our cross is our commitment to him. In Matthew 10:37-38 Jesus says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me." This seems to be a hard saying but as we take up the cross and follow Christ, our values and morals will separate us from those who do not believe whether it be father, mother, children, or friends and we will have to be willing to identify with him even in the face of opposition, suffering or worse, death. He tells us "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" This world isn't worth losing our life for it. Our eternal life is our great reward for being his disciple. Here are other scriptures references to being a disciple of Jesus:
If we love one another, we are his disciples. (John 13:35)
If we abide in his word, we are his disciples. (John 8:31)
Bearing fruit shows we are Jesus' disciples. (John15:8)
He told us to make disciples of all nations and teach others what you have taught us. (Matthew 28:19,20)
We are not only to be hearers but doers of the Word. (James 1:22)
Jesus was our greatest example of denying himself when he went to the cross and sacrificed his life for me and you, while we were yet in our sins. That's powerful. He sacrificed his life so that we could live eternally with him. Where will you spend it? Jesus gave us the reason why we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. Matthew 16:25-26 says, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" We must stand for Jesus in our hearts when it is uncomfortable, if were standing alone, or even in the face of death. Holding on to our physical life could mean losing our eternal life. What an honor to receive the Nobel Peace prize or attain the greatest accomplishment ever known but neither of these things can get us into heaven.
If you have not made Jesus your Lord and Savior, he is waiting on you with open arms to call on him. He forces no one to serve him but has given you the freedom to choose. There is no salvation in any other name except the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:12). This life isn't all we have. There is a life to come, and it is forever. Eternal. Without end. Where will you spend it? In eternal peace or eternal torment? If it is heaven, don't you want to take someone with you? Being a true disciple of Christ will draw others to him. Romans 10:9,10 says, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved." Choose life today.
Lord Jesus, I pray for the person reading this now. You are the Vine, and we are the branches, we can do nothing apart from you but with you we can do all things. If salvation is needed, open their hearts to their need for you that they may walk in your Truth and be led by your Spirit. If they have lost their way due to the cares and burdens of this life, help them to make their way back into fellowship with you. You are waiting. Thank you for hearing us when we call on you in truth. In Jesus Name. Amen.