In this particular post we’re looking at an element of Christian discipleship that ties us all together. It’s our common denominator as His disciples. We must learn to die to self to be faithful. There can be no obedience unless we choose to carry our cross to a place of death.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.”
But what does that look like? How can I know that I’m really doing this? Maybe this will guide you.
By no means is this list exhaustive. But you know that maybe good. The principle then has the room to fit all areas of your life–the core idea of self-renunciation becomes the way your spirit operates. We deny ourselves so real life can begin.
There can be no resurrection power unless there is crucifixion weakness.
We must go to the cross daily in order to find our life. That is the way. “This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him we will also live with him.”
“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless.12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”
1 Corinthians 4:11-13, NIV
The apostle Paul isn’t ashamed to be called ‘scum.’ He realizes that this is his ‘standing’ in this world’s opinion. He is regarded as a nobody and of little value by the ‘powers-that-be.’ A tension exists between the believer and the world system. The expectations that the world has is part of the package that we have been given. The message of the Cross is the ultimate foolishness. Jesus told his own disciples that:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
John 15:18-19, NLT
The world hates us because we belong to Jesus.
It is his reproach we bear. We should not see the trial and sorrows as our issue, and we shouldn’t get upset by the world’s snub. The tension is real and we can expect being ostracized. In fact, we might do well to be concerned if we don’t see it.
After all, hatred is such a hard word.
And the stigma should humble us— it has a supernatural origin. We shouldn’t expect otherwise. To follow Jesus means we will only experience what he is already gone through. Some of us will follow him even to martyrdom. The hardships and challenges do not invalidate our walk, rather they confirm what he said would happen. The world is under seige by Satan, it is his spirit that controls the unbelieving world.
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Father of all comfort, please come to your servants who are suffering for their faith in you. Meet them and hold them close to you. Give them boldness and awareness. Seek them out and make them your witnesses in a hostile world. Give them the Spirit of Jesus and help them overcome by their love. ~In Jesus Name, Amen
Today, through the marvel of modern medicine, we can do heart bypasses, heart transplants and install artificial hearts.
But no one can make an unclean heart clean once it becomes dirty. We cannot fix it to live in eternity with a infinitely holy God. It’s through the process of biblical discipleship that you and I are being prepared for living with Him.
Discipleship is the methodology (?!) God has ordained for us to change our hearts. But because discipleship is so challenging and so demanding, we’re tempted to avoid the Gospel’s call. Sometimes it seems like there are many, many believers and just a few disciples.
Nothing but discipleship is an acceptable response to His sacrifice on the cross for me.
Let’s consider the terms and conditions of being his disciple. Please think these through, perhaps they will help, and perhaps you already understand them. They’re somewhat basic:
1) A true disciple will love Jesus Christ above all.
34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.”
Matthew 10:34-37, Message
“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with Him is an insult.”
2) A true disciple must deny himself.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
3) A true disciple, intentionally and deliberately, embraces the cross.
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
“The cross of discipleship is that I daily and hourly delight to tell my human nature that I an not my own; I no longer claim right to myself.”
4) A true disciple is close to Jesus and follows Him.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
5) A true disciple will love other disciples.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4:7
It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants, They spare nothing. Their first legislator [Jesus] has put it in their hearts that they are brethren.”
–Lucian, Greek writer (120-200 A.D.)
6) A true disciple abides (continues) in the teaching of the Lord.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
John 8:31 (John 15:8-9)
7) A true disciple lives to follow the words and teaching of the Lord Jesus.
“Jesus said to him, “’No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
A simple word about joy. The Holy Spirit turns all the hard things of discipleship into sweetness. Perhaps the difficult part is found in the first few minutes of the decision to follow in a specific matter. But the peaceful presence soon follows and your life will be flooded with light. There is incredible joy in this life of discipleship.
A word about obedience. The Holy Spirit rushes in to touch the weakest act of obedience. He understands our feeble and cowardly hearts and promises to help us to obey Him.
A word about becoming unique. The disciple is a rarity among the world (and even the Church). Following Him in your walk may set you apart as odd and peculiar. If you will follow it will mean you will die to what people think. You should love them anyway. You may be persecuted and spoken evil of. Forgive them, they won’t understand.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
1 John 1:7, NIV
At first glance the Old Testament is a collection of extremely bloody books. So many sacrifices were made that the Levitical priesthood had to sacrifice lambs 24 hours a day. People had this desperate need to cover their sins with an offering. This was instilled in them by the Law and their conscience. The guilt emanating from their sin must be covered by a lamb’s blood.
As our sins mount up (and they will) we have an innate need to cover them up. Sin is almost never hidden, and never exalted as a virtue. And yet we try to skate though our accumulation of many sins. We forget many, and try to excuse the more heinous. Our guilt condemns us, and we have no choice but to hide it, from ourselves, others and from God. We can no longer pretend we’re without sin.
“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”
The Jewish people no longer sacrifice lambs, and the Gentiles have never caught on to this idea of a physical sacrifice. But sin has never gone out-of-style. But there is still a way for God to forgive our sin. The New Testament teaches clearly that Jesus has offered His blood as the payment of every sin ever committed. His death wiped our slates clean, forever.
The New Testament is crystal clear on this. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ had enough sufficiency to cover everyone, once, and for all. It all seems astonishing, beyond belief and possibility. The blood it seems, has never lost its power. This may be why Christians can’t seem to ‘shut-up’ about their faith. They ‘see’ something! At long last, the tremendous guilt is lifted from the believer, and they want others to know about it.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”
Simply put, you now have the confidence–‘backstage passes,’ into God’s presence, all because of His death. The cross is far, far beyond a gold religious medallion worn around the neck. The cross of Christ, and more precisely His blood, is now regarded as complete righteousness for anyone (who by faith) receives it as his/her own. A brand-new confidence takes hold. “God loves me, and He really has forgiven me.”
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)
Our sins and our weaknesses, whether they be from our fallenness, whether they be genetic or environmental, are now smothered in the blood of Jesus. That red blood makes us ‘white as snow’ in God’s analysis. ‘Brokenbelievers’ everywhere are cheering. We know we aren’t quite right, and we understand our sin, but we have become fans of Jesus Christ. After all, His death has brought us eternal life.