This is a great time to be a Christian! The need for us to pray for others and pray for our country is greater than ever before. The opportunity for us to live our faith, love our neighbors, and lead our lives in a way that brings honor and glory to God and which overcomes the negative stereotypes that some have of Christians is, in my opinion, at a pinnacle. It is indeed a great time, an important time to be a follower of Christ. Jesus spoke of what it means to be a follower of Him in Luke 9:23.
Luke 9:23 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.”
Jesus told His disciples that following Him would involve commitment and self-denial. Foxes had holes, the birds had nests but the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. Would they follow Him even if it meant their lives had to change, even if it involved sacrifice? Yes, they would follow Him and yes, they would live a life of commitment and sacrifice.
Jesus’ words in Luke 9:23 are still for those who would be His followers today. All of His words are for today. If we would follow Him we must commit to Him and submit our wills, our wants and our lives to His Lordship and leadership. We must deny ourselves. Christ asked His followers to trust Him, to commit to Him, to deny themselves and follow Him. That is not a message that resonates today. We live in the midst of a culture that for the most part promotes comfort over commitment and self-indulgence over self-sacrifice. And to make matters worse, these values of the culture have impacted the church.
“Give up who I am, what I want, how I feel?” That is not a message that resonates today… not even in the church. “I love Jesus and Jesus loves me and He loves me enough not to ask me to _____ .” You fill in the blank. I am afraid that we have taken that great hymn “Just as I am” and made it into some kind of anthem which declares that Jesus loves me just as I am because I am a pretty amazing dude. Who wouldn’t love me?
No, that song does not speak of how amazing I am or you or anyone else is. It speaks of how amazing the Lord is because He loves me just as I am. And yes, Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. “While we were yet sinners” please notice that. He loved us when we were at that point…but He doesn’t want to leave us at that point. Paul also wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone be in Christ they are a new creation, old things have passed away and all things have become new.”
Yes, God loves us as we are but He does not leave us where we were! He sends the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us so that we can learn, grow and move forward in spiritual maturity.
God equips us to be able deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. God gives us the ability to say and mean, “For me I won’t worry about my comfort or convenience, I will serve you Lord.” God will give us the ability to walk in His will and His ways. God will give us the ability to be kind, tender hearted and compassionate, forgiving others just as Christ Jesus has forgiven you. He will help us to be His followers at a time when He needs loving, godly ambassadors in this world. The Lord is ready to work in us and through us…if we follow Him.