The true Christian lifestyle has not changed through the passing centuries, however in our day Christianity is often presented in a way that has very little to do with conformity to the life of Jesus. The cross is often presented as the path Jesus took to secure our leisure and comfort. Sadly, many ascribe to this completely unbiblical idea. In my last two posts in this short series, I wrestled through a little bit of what it means to love Jesus through obedience and follow Him by denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily that we might be conformed to His likeness. This message of true discipleship is so abnormal for us in the West, but the Bible describes it as normal Christianity. We must let this shock us and realize that the message has not changed because culture has changed. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So in this final post in my short series, I want to write a little about the last phrase Jesus spoke in Luke 9:23 – “follow Me”.
The third step on the path to discipleship with Jesus is to follow Him. The expression “follow me” would be readily understood by Jews of Jesus’ day as implying a call to become the permanent disciple of a teacher. A Jewish hearer of Jesus’ words would not have misunderstood His call in Luke 9. Jesus invites us as His disciples to walk the path He walked and not turn back. Matthew’s gospel expounds Jesus’ words with a profound warning:
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
(Matthew 10:37-38 NKJV)
Luke’s gospel gives a similar warning:
““If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
(Luke 14:26-27 NKJV)
Jesus said that we would not be worthy of being called His disciple if we turned back, and could not be His disciple if we did not renounce loyalty or association to others and be loyal only to Him. Why? Jesus never turned back from His obedience and was always first loyal to His Father, never committing Himself to any man (John 2:24). He is looking for disciples of permanence who will loose the bonds of corruption and unrighteousness and take His easy, light yoke upon themselves (Matthew 11:29), not seeking to be loosed from it. Unless we are equally yoked in heart, mind, and purpose with Jesus, the Father will never have a suitable bride for His Son. Therefore Jesus’ invitation to discipleship must affect every area of our lives at the deepest level possible – from our finances and relationships to speech and heart motivations. He invites us to live as a stranger, pilgrim, and sojourner in this present evil age, waiting for the fulfillment of His promises and the restoration of all things – again, because He lived that way. Oh let us not water down these words or just pass by them and keep wondering what they really mean!
Let there be no question – to live as a true disciple of Jesus is not easy. Many wrongly live as if the Christian life was a vacation on a cruise liner instead of a war (1 Timothy 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:3) or a race (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1). Jesus did not promise us health, wealth, and fame if we followed Him. I will boldly say that those who believe such things are on a wide road that is leading to destruction. Jesus Himself said the gate was narrow and the way to life was difficult:
“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
(Matthew 7:14 NKJV)
We must flee from every romanticized form of discipleship that promises us ease, comfort, or health in this age. Jesus’ call in Luke 9 is about our lives being made to look like His.
Lest we think the way is too difficult for anyone to attain, we must remember the One giving the invitation! The glorious LORD from everlasting, Jesus, is the high priest that can sympathize with every one of our weaknesses. The provision of His grace is sufficient for us in our weakness as we repent, choose to obey, and take up our cross daily. He is not demanding immediate maturity but a complete response in light of His invitation to discipleship (see my previous article on this very subject). Here is where a deep measure of inexpressible joy can come before we lock eyes with Him for the first time in the resurrection. When we die daily and our lives emulate His we make much of Him and demonstrate how much we value Him and esteem His worth, and the completion of our enjoyment of Him comes as we laud Him supreme in all things (Colossians 1:18).
The fullness of joy Jesus lived with was a result of His choices for righteousness (Psalms 45:7). He walked the path of self-denial and death for the glory of Another. May our lives be a reflection of the glory of Jesus as we walk the path He walked and take His yoke upon us, and may He grant us experience of the inexpressible joy of conformity as we die daily.