One of the greatest errors we make in the church is disconnecting the conversion from discipleship. We give people the false idea that while conversion is essential, discipleship is optional.
Jesus never gives that option. Jesus never invites people to take their free ticket to heaven and then live however they want to live. Jesus’ call is never to conversion, it is to discipleship – to obey Him in every area of our lives.
Yes, our salvation is something we receive as a free gift when we embrace the truth that Christ died for our sins. But that decision is the beginning of a lifetime commitment to obeying Christ.
Anyone who wishes to follow Him through this life, past the grave, and into heaven must do several things listed in Luke 9.
“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. ’” Luke 9:23
1. Surrender: “Deny himself”
To deny yourself simply means to continually and consistently say “no” to what you want in life and say “yes” to what God wants. It means that when you are in the battle of wills between your desires and God desires, you allow God to have the final say. It means to submit yourself to God’s right to rule over every area of your life.
Such an attitude is contrary to the narcissistic world in which we live, a world that recognizes no greater authority over our lives than “me, myself, and I.”
No, the one who wants to follow Christ is the one who, like Christ, quits fighting against and surrenders to the Father’s will. “Not my will, but yours be done.”
2. Sacrifice: “Take up His cross daily”
To the apostles the cross was not a religious symbol like it is today that people wear as an ornament around their necks. The cross was an instrument of capital punishment. There was nothing sentimental about it at all. They would have understood this verse in the proper context.
So what does it mean for us to take up our cross daily? There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this term today. Some Christians think that a cross is any unpleasant circumstance they have to endure, such as arthritis, financial hardship, or a cranky mother-in-law.
That is not what Jesus has in mind. Jesus doesn’t say we must “bear our crosses daily.” That would mean carrying something that someone else gave us. No, He says we are to “take up our cross daily.” We must voluntarily choose every day to put to death, our dreams, goals, and plans that in any way conflict with God’s desire for our lives.
3. Obedience: “Follow Me”
Whatever the cost, whatever the consequence, the true disciple is one who follows, one who obeys Christ. Those who try to save or hold on to their agendas, plans, desires, and dreams, end up losing their lives.
By “losing our life for Christ’s sake,” He is not just talking about physically dying for your faith in Christ. He is talking about daily dying to our desires, dreams, and plans and submitting to God’s rule over our life.
The late missionary Jim Elliot who was savagely murdered when he attempted to share Christ with the Auca Indians in Ecuador had years earlier said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."
Adapted from “Cross Walking” by Dr. Robert Jeffress.