What does it mean to be a Christian? Well, it means that we have accepted Jesus as our LORD and Saviour. Being saved by Grace through faith alone. Does it stop there? Is that the only requirement? It is all there is for salvation, but it is also just the start of a faith journey and relationship with Jesus. The next stage is being a Christ-follower. This is about following in the footsteps of Jesus, following His example that He set for us.
Does Jesus say what this should look like?
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
If you look back further in this chapter Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ. This leads into Jesus’ foretelling of His death, which He uses to talk about what it means to be a Christ-follower.
Jesus says “If ANYONE” would follow Him. Jesus is talking to the disciples, yet, He is addressing this to everyone. The cost of following Him is two-fold, so let’s look at what the cost of being a Christ-follower is:
Deny yourself (V23)
Jesus is saying that being a Christ-follower is more than just giving up a few things, it’s not about only denying some things. What Jesus was talking about was denying personal control of your life. Giving up your right to manage your life direction.
Why is this important, because I know that whenever I take control then my selfish nature rises to the top like the cream on fresh milk.
To be a Christ-follower we need to give over complete control to Jesus. That’s everything.
Take up your cross (V23)
The cross meant something very different to Jesus and those that He was speaking to than it does for us. This is what it meant for Jesus:
Opposition – The cross for Jesus meant that people were in opposition to Him. Think about His experience leading up to hanging on the cross. That’s some opposition right there.
Shame – Being nailed to a cross was for saved for the worst of criminals. There was a stigma attached to those who deserved this death. This meant that as the criminals as they were being led to the place would have crowds hurl abuse and objects at them. Then they were stripped naked and put on the cross. The cross was shameful.
If we are a Christ-follower, then we are going to face opposition and shame for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel
Suffering – The cross was a form of execution that was about creating suffering. Crucifixion would generally kill people through suffocation. The death was a long and painful process.
Christ-followers should expect to experience some suffering. Taking up our cross means that we will suffer for our faith and for our connection to Jesus.
Death – The ultimate purpose of the cross was to bring death. There was no coming back from the cross, once you were hung on the cross you were there till death.
We may not be called to a physical death directly because of our faith, but we are called to a death to our self (Galatians 2:20). It’s no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me.
When Jesus tells us that we are to take up our cross and follow Him, we need to know that we will experience opposition, shame, suffering and even death as a Christ-follower.
The new story
How much are you prepared to invest or even sacrifice to be a Christ-follower? How much are you prepared to give for your relationship with God? These are important questions for us.
I am sure that after this speech Jesus gave, people were jumping up desperate to be a Christ-follower. But it doesn’t end there. You see, although the cross was about death, the cross of Jesus is not the end of the story.
Being called to take up our cross is an invitation to know that opposition, shame, suffering, and death do not have the final say in our lives. When we experience opposition, shame and suffering we know that Jesus has been there before us. People who embody opposition, shame and suffering in our lives don’t have the final say. They don’t define us.
Jesus has the final say in our life, he is the one who defines us amid all these trials and experiences. This is where the mystery of the cross steps in. You see, something like the cross that was opposition, shame, suffering, and death is now flipped on its head. We no longer view the cross in this way, we see the cross as life.
Jesus turned the cross from a symbol of death to a symbol of life. He made this a hopeful message. We need to choose Jesus.
We need to choose His life. Taking up our cross means that what is death is life for us.
We will experience hardships in our life for the sake of Christ, that is a lot of being a Christ-follower. Our victory is in Christ, even in the midst of our trials and sufferings.
Whatever you go through, whatever you experience this is not the end of your story, it is an opportunity to grow more and more in love with our LORD and saviour Jesus. Will you take up your cross and follow Him? With all the sacrifice that requires, but thankfully with all the benefits it also brings. There is hope.
Don’t let death have the final say, let Jesus have the final say in your life.
In faith, hope, and love
Steve and Cass Abram