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"Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me."
Jesus spoke these words to a crowd of people as He prepared them for his upcoming death. He told them that He would "suffer many terrible things", and be "rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law". [Luke 9:22]
As we know, all of these things did happen. He was persecuted, rejected, mocked, beaten, spat upon, and then hung on a cross until He took His last breath.
We also know the good news. He arose from death 3 days later perfectly intact. Just as He said He would.
I have been pondering what it means to follow Jesus, to really follow Him.
In His own words He says it looks like this:
-Turn from your selfish ways
-Take up your cross daily
We must be careful not to water down these words, or only apply the things He says that are "comfortable" for us. Also be careful of anyone teaching anything contrary to the words of Jesus. Study His Word. Get in there on your own and check out His Truth. Don't just take what you hear to heart, hold it up to the Word of God. He will shed light on the Truth.
Let's break this teaching down of following Christ...
Turn from your selfish ways:
Who am I seeking to please each day? Am I striving to make my name great, or God's? Am I willing to deny my time, my comfort, my pleasures, my money, my reputation...in order to follow Christ?
Am I concerned over what people are thinking about me to the point these people become idols?
Am I seeking the approval of man over God?
Am I seeking the interest of others over my own? [Philippians 2:4]
Is my time so important to me that I am not willing to pause, and help someone else in need?
Is there someone in my own family, or circle of friends that I need to reach out to even though it may take a lot of my resources and energy?
Are we so in love with our church and our "religion" that we close the doors on those that are on the outside? Does our attitude reflect a heart of love, or a heart of judgement and condemnation?
Selfishness preserves our heart. It encases it with cold legalism and religion instead of breaking it wide open to ooze out love to others in need of a touch of His Grace and Compassion. Our hearts were not made to be preserved and frozen, but to be cut-wide open, bleeding for others to know Him.
Lord, help me to turn from my selfish ways. Help me to deny myself when I want to surrender to the demands of my flesh. Break my heart wide open and free it from self-preservation and selfishness.
Take up your cross daily:
Am I willing to totally die to myself? Am I willing to be totally surrendered to Christ that I will follow Him at all costs? Including losing some friends along the way? Am I willing to carry the cross even when being a Christian gets hard and uncomfortable? Even when others mock me or roll their eyes at me? And to love them anyway?
Taking up our cross daily is not a burden we pride ourselves of carrying as some like to believe. It is not meant to be viewed as a martyredom on our part before God. No. That kind of thinking takes the focus off of Christ and puts it on us. This is not what "taking up our cross" looks like.
Taking up our cross is totally surrender to Him. To His Word. To His Ways. To His Love. To His Mercy. To His Compassion. To His Humility.
Lord, help me to take up my cross daily. No matter the persecution that comes my way.
Perhaps this one has pierced my heart in the biggest ways. It is the one I probably struggle with the most.
As humans, we have a tendency to want to be followers. We are like sheep constantly in search of a shepherd to lead us.
Since the beginning of time, this has been a problem with us.
We are so quick to make an idol out of people, things--anything.
In this day and age, I find it no coincidence that we have "followers" on social media. Not only that, but we have many that we "follow".
Friends, we must be careful who we follow. Let me say that one more time--we must be careful who we follow.
Several years ago, I was following someone on Instagram. She is an amazing woman of God--known by many. However, I found myself wanting to be just like her. I was envious of how witty she was, how her family seemed so perfect as she home-schooled her slew of children. I found my joy being suffocated because her life looked so much prettier than mine.
People hung on her every word. I was one of those people.
I found myself wanting to be like her. Although, my life was so much different than hers.
She did not do anything wrong, it was my heart that was in the wrong. She had become an idol to me.
The Lord showed me during that time, that I was putting women of God like her in a place above Him. I got so caught up in the glamour and the praise of her life, that it made me feel inadequate in my own.
Again, God is using her to minister to many. She was not the problem, my heart was. When we put our faith in people, instead of God, we start to crumble. We lose our Joy. We lose our sense of value in Christ. We lose all the way around. Our gifts become stifled and suffocated.
Comparison is the thief of Joy.
We become enamored with their lives, their stories, their wittiness, their families, and we forget the One we are truly to follow--Christ.
Who are we following, friends?
Who has the most influence in our lives?
Lord, let it be You. Help us to follow You completely and remove any idols that have come before You. If we are following anyone other than You, please reveal this to our hearts. Shine a light on places where we have made idols. We repent, and we desire to follow You-above all others.
Lord help me to follow You,