One of the dominant and ever-recurring themes of Jesus’ teaching to developing disciples is the concept of self-denial and cross bearing. To deny oneself means that in every moment of life you must say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to God.
To deny oneself means once means that in every moment of life you must say no to self and yes to God. To deny oneself means one, finally and for all, to dethrone self and to enthrone God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. We must relinquish the desire to pursue personal objectives for success and prosperity and follow Jesus into everlasting truth and complete fulfillment of life.
When Jesus tells us to ‘take up his cross’, He means that we must take up the burden of sacrifice. The Christian life is the life of sacrificial service. As Christians, we have to abandon personal ambition to serve Christ; it may be that we will discover the place where we can render the greatest service to Jesus Christ is somewhere where the reward will be small and the prestige non-existent. The Christian life is a life that is always concerned with others more than it is concerned with itself.
These are very strong words of Jesus and on the surface seem to paint a very disturbing picture of Him and how He says we must tear away from those relationships closest to us. However, what Christ is saying to us is that no love in life can compare with the love we must bear to Him. One of our first duties as Christians is to count the cost of following Christ.
When Jesus said, “Follow me,” He meant leaving something or someone or some place behind. To obey meant to walk into the unknown unencumbered – ready to listen, to learn, to witness, to serve. The word disciple means “learner”.
Simon and Andrew, James and John left their fishing nets and relatives. Matthew, also called Levi, left his tax office. Jesus offered other persons radical discipleship, but they would not break loose from the things that held them. Jesus warned a scribe, a prospective disciple, that he would often be sleeping on the ground. We hear no more of the man (Matthew 8:19-20). Another wanted to wait until his elderly father died. “Follow now”, said Jesus, and that man also faded (8:21-22). Still later a rich man considered discipleship. “Go, sell your possessions… then come.” But the man “went away grieving, for he had many possessions” (19:16-22). Even family members cannot stand in the way of discipleship (10:34-39). The Christian must have a single eye, seeking first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.
Being a disciple involves constant penetrating into the truth, which the words of Jesus bear. No one can hear or read the words of Jesus once and then say that he understands their full meaning. To remain in the Word of Jesus means constantly to study and think about what He said until more and more of its meaning becomes ours.
Discipleship issues in knowledge of the truth. To learn from Jesus is to learn the truth. “You shall know the truth, the truth will make you free.” What is the truth? There are many possible answers to that question but the most comprehensive way to put it is that the truth which Jesus brings shows us the real values of life. In the truth of Jesus we see what things are really important and what are not. Take some time to think about those things seemingly important in your life and measure them against what you have in Christ Jesus.