“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
I’ve never been a very good follower. I like to do things my way, on my time, and under my stipulations. It’s a selfish approach to life that admittedly brings me a false sense of security. I think my way is faster, better, and certainly easier – why would I choose to live any other way? I might be wrong, but I think most people lead their lives this way. Sure, we may be great at following instructions from our boss at work, following the principles of our preferred politician, or even following the latest fashion trend of our favorite celebrity, but when it comes to our lives, we don’t want to follow anyone but ourselves. It’s a worldly trend that has quite honestly caught on like wildfire, and I believe it has become one of Satan’s most deceitful tools His uses to draw us away from the Spirit-filled life Christ calls us to live.
Jesus tells us He came to this earth so that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10), but how do we experience this abundant life? Jesus puts it plainly. Follow me. He speaks these words 20 times in the New Testament. Follow me. It seems simple enough, right? However, in a world filled with “self” it becomes one of the hardest tasks we, as Christians, are called to do. Think about it, we live in a self-motivated, self-assured, self-reliant, self-centered society that provides the path to self-righteousness or self-loathing. This process of choosing self over God becomes the bottom line to all of our sin. So, what can we, as followers of Jesus Christ, do about it? I think the answer is found in dying.
STOP TRYING AND START DYING – this is a new quote I have put on my refrigerator. You see, in my self-centered world, I have tried to follow Jesus on my terms, but I’ve learned I can’t “try” to be a better follower of Christ. When I try and follow, it puts me in the driver’s seat. I must die to myself in order to live for Christ. Deny myself. Pick up my many crosses and follow Him – His way. It’s not a new concept. Jesus told all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).”
The very root of this word, “deny,” means to die to our own interests and desires. It doesn’t come naturally. We must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do it. As the Apostle Paul spoke to the church at Corinth about the resurrection of Christ and the ultimate resurrection of our souls, he told them “I die every day (1 Cor. 15:31).” He went on to tell them “the body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (42-44).” I have learned I must die in order to truly live.
I have a critical tongue with my spouse. DIE.
I lose control when my kids don’t obey. DIE.
I’m jealous or envious of a friend. DIE.
I am fearful of the future. DIE.
I am overly sensitive. DIE.
I am controlled by those around me. DIE. The list could go on and on.
By dying to myself and following Christ, I am no longer saying Jesus is top priority in my life – I am saying He is the ONLY priority in my life. I allow the Holy-Spirit His rightful place at the driver’s seat of my heart, and I am no longer in control. Is this hard to do? Absolutely! It’s a daily, sometimes hourly, decision to die and follow. But, we aren’t alone. As children of the Almighty Creator of the Universe, we are blessed with His strength and power to lead us, and lead us He will. In Luke 11:13, Jesus says all we have to do is ask for the Holy Spirit, and He will give Him to us. So, today, may each of us approach His throne with confidence, and ask Him for the amazing gift of His Spirit, in order that we may offer ourselves fully to Him. “Follow me,” He says. Yes, Lord Jesus, one death at a time.
Until next time, dying to live. Katie