by Matt Slick
What do you think of when the word discipleship comes to mind? Do you think of discipline, or following Jesus, or helping others, or memorizing Scripture, etc.? When I think of discipleship, of being a follower of Jesus, one common theme always comes to mind. It is found in Jesus' words in Luke 9:23, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." To me, this is the essence of discipleship.
The cross was a place of great pain and humiliation, but it is also a place of great love. Jesus' endured the scorn and ridicule of so many in order to buy life for us. He allowed Himself to be led to a place where He would suffer greatly. He humbled Himself so that He could die. He did not boast in Himself. He did not seek His own. He did not remember a wrong suffered. Instead, He loved. He taught. He healed. He forgave. This is what He meant when He said to pick up your cross and follow Him. He wants you to follow Him to the place of where you die to yourself, where you live humility, where you do not boast, where you are forgiving and loving, and kind -- and where you bring glory to God. This is what He is asking of us because this is what He exemplified. We cannot serve two masters. Either Jesus is Lord or our lives, or we are.
To be a disciple of Jesus means that we follow Him. It means that we are trying to become like Him in many ways. This is a very difficult thing to do because He is so good and we are sinners. So much of it is left up to ourselves and our responsibility. God lets us choose our way, our needs, our disciplines. Of course, He desires that we seek Him first; He desires that we love Him first. But, He will not force us into this. He lets us grow and learn from our success as well as our mistakes. He allows us the opportunities to die to ourselves and thereby grow in Christ. He provides the means for us to put others first. He arranges things so that we can make godly choices or choices that suit our fleshly desires and needs. In this, He is discipling us by providing choices to make in our lives.
Every opportunity of every day can be a place of turning. Whether or not someone else knows you are a Christian, or knows the motives of your heart, you are to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3). It is a high calling, this thing called Christian discipleship. But it is a worthy calling.
Nevertheless, when I compare myself to Jesus, I find myself falling short. To be honest, I don't like bearing the cross daily. It is heavy. I am not particularly fond of disciplining myself to read His Word, not to mention actually applying it to my life. Being humble is something I struggle with and considering the welfare of others means that I have to be less selfish. All of these things are difficult -- and all of these things are unChristlike. Therefore, I cling to the cross, confess my sins, and yet again ask for forgiveness and the strength to continue to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. I will choose to follow Him regardless of the difficulties, the humiliation, and the suffering. Why? Because that is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. That is what it means if I claim the name of Christian for myself.
How about you? Do you claim the title of Christian? If so, are you living as though that were true?1