Truly Being a Disciple

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

True Christianity is far more than most people imagine.  Many believe that if you have gone forward to the alter at church, state you want to be a Christian; then afterwards pray before every meal, read the Bible as recommended, and say the right things, then you are a Christian.  Now, I am not here to judge anyone, for I cannot read your heart, however, Jesus interjects something that most people either do not understand and/or do not follow.  This particular point iis found in various places in the scriptures, and it shows the requirement of a change in our lives.  Note the words in the above verse, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me,’ This phrase basically says, if anyone wishes to follow me and be a disciple of mine.  In the vernacular of today, if you wish to be a true Christian.

The first thing we must do is deny ourselves.  What does He mean by this?  We need to deny ourselves those things which are not acceptable to God.  We must deny those things that we enjoy doing that are sinful.  We must make a conscience decision to put God and then others ahead of ourselves as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4.  This does not mean we give up everything we enjoy.  However, we must be open to possibly changing our list of desires.  We must get rid of those things in our lives that are fun, but not good.  We must give up our former life, that which we were prior to truly accepting Christ.  If we are truly saved, our old life is gone.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  We must deny our old life, our old self and our old ways.  For we are now a new creation.  We now have the Holy Spirit living in us, and He and His will must take priority.

And lastly, we must take up our cross and follow Him.  This essentially means that we must patiently and humbly bear every affliction and evil, just as Christ did on the cross.  And we need to do this no matter how shameful and painful it may be.  If God leads us to a difficult place then we need to accept it and as appointed to us.  We must trust God that He is with us and He will guide us through.  Look at all Paul suffered for the sake of Christ. “Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison. But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—I speak in foolishness—I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:16-28.  This is how Paul denied himself and took up his cross.

There is no way for us to know what cross we may need to bear for Christ.  However, it is important that if we want to be His disciple and follow Him as He calls us, we may need to suffer for His sake.  Today’s culture is more and more denying the truth of the gospel and causing trouble for those who fully accept it.  For now, it is ridicule and harsh language.  People are now killing Christians within the churches they attend, and harass believers in other ways.  We may not suffer the way Paul and the close disciples of Jesus did, however, we must be willing to if it comes our way. We cannot choose to compromise in order to stay safe, and call ourselves true disciples.  I encourage everyone who reads this to take heed.  For us Christians, we must continue to spread the Word of God to all who need to hear it; essentially the unsaved.  And we must encourage our brothers and sisters who are suffering for Christ’s sake and be willing to endure along with them if necessary.  If we are not willing to take up our cross, be aware of what Jesus also said.  “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38.  I pray that we all are willing, no matter the cost, to bear our cross for Him as He bore His cross for us.

 

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