“If anyone should come after me,
he must deny himself,
pick up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Kyle Idleman slammed us with his book, Not a Fan in 2011. He spurred us to examine ourselves and our relationship with Jesus Christ: fan or follower. It’s about denial and selflessness, purpose and meaningful living.
Shaken and still reeling from Idleman’s confirming examination, I tackled David Platt’s Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live.
“Jesus beckons us down a hard road,
and the word Jesus uses for “hard”
is associated in other parts of the Bible
with pain, pressure, tribulation, and persecution.
The way of Jesus is hard to follow, and it’s hated by many.”
These words stall your breath if you let their truth wrap around your consciousness. We’ve grown accustomed to soaking in the “love and compassion” of Jesus. The sermons on forgiveness and grace let us leave our congregations with a fresh start for the week.
During the 60’s when I began going to church there was a lot of passionate hellfire and brimstone sermons. I saw God as a judge and juror. When the pastor said, “Do not . . .”, I believed it and tried not to commit the sin. There were rumblings from the congregation for more scriptural references to love, but by and large the focus was on not sinning.
But it seems the last two decades the sermons have grown softer in tone. People didn’t want to be chastised or feel guilty about sin in their lives. Church attendance began to drop. To regain membership, the churches and pastors began giving us the message of love and acceptance, almost to exclusion. Church became a “love-in” and God the flower thrower.
Now it sounds like I’m judging. Heaven forbid, No! We need a healthy balance to understand the cost of our faith, our purpose, and realize hell is real. The increasing violence in our own country has got to bring our sensibilities around to what the Bible truly says. It has never been one sided. There is as much scripture on love, grace and forgiveness as there is admonishment, judgment, and hell.
David Platt uses the word “intentional” over and over again in his book. Intentional in seeking God’s Word. Intentional in taking steps to follow Jesus. Intentional to fill our minds with the Truth in God’s Word. Intentional in worshipping, praying, fasting, and giving, and becoming disciple makers.
Intentional means to do something on purpose.
“If anyone comes after me. . .” If we decide to seek Jesus, we need to understand a few things. We might begin by getting to know Him better by digging into scripture.
We must deny ourselves. In a world that expresses “I” and “me” over “we” and “our”, it is going to be hard. Everything in our culture points to the fact that I need filling and refreshing. Nothing you will hear says to give yourself away for the good of others or to the body of Christ. It’s a foreign concept. But you cannot follow when you are leading, searching for your own fulfillment. Denial means to sacrifice one’s own wants or needs, self-denial.
We must pick up our cross daily. Everyone’s cross is different. One cross that most of us have is being overly busy. Too busy to study the Word. Too busy to pray. Some might have a cross of addiction or anger or gambling or (you fill in the blank).
We must seek to follow (“if anyone should follow me”). Completely and with our whole heart, walking behind Jesus, letting the dust kicked up from the Rabbi’s feet softly cover us.
Follow Me. A Call to Die. A Call to Live.
Platt states, “From the start, the promises and privileges of following Jesus with your life were tied to believing Jesus with your mind.”
To follow our Lord and Savior is intentional. We purpose daily to get into God’s Word and realize we are on this earth to serve Him. Our intentional focus will ready us to face the trials, persecution, and sacrifices for our faith in Jesus.
If you want to understand more about the path to being a devoted Christ-follower and disciple maker, I encourage you to read Platt’s book. It’s great material for small group study and Sunday school classes.
In this and all things let our eyes remain on Jesus to keep our path straight.