So what has this past year been like for you? What have you done? Where have you been? What does the future hold?
No matter where we have been nor where we are going there are three things Jesus says we must do if we are to experience the abundant life offered by Him and if we are to fully trust and follow Him. I would offer that these are three things we MUST do in 2013 if we are to experience God’s presence and purpose this year…and in the future.
However, here’s the thing about these three simple things: most of us won’t do them. That’s just the reality, becaue while they are simple, they are not easy. Yet it doesn’t change the words of Jesus. So let’s look at these three simple steps to truly being a disciple of Christ…the three things that He is calling us to in this year…and every day, month, year.
READ Luke 9:23-26
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.
- DENY YOURSELF
…it means to deny anything that is about self. Jesus is meaning to prepare the disciples for martyrdom. To lay aside anything that is related to self gratification, self satisfaction, selfish desires. Does that mean we cannot enjoy things in this life? No. But to feed our flesh with the desires that the world offers will never satisfy and we must at moments throughout the day, week, year, make a choice to deny our self because our sinful self…our natural desires are not inline with the desires of God. It is something we must choose to do.
This year, if you and I and the church, want to experience all the fullness of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we must come after Him…and the first thing He says we must do is deny ourselves.
SO WHAT IS IT THAT GOD MAY BE ASKING YOU TO DENY YOURSELF THIS YEAR? WILL YOU MAKE A COMMITMENT TO DO SO?
- TAKE UP YOUR CROSS…daily
Jesus was speaking to his disciples here and they were all too familiar with what it looked like to take up your cross. They had seen this lived out, seeing men literally carry crosses to their death.
Jesus was saying that it wouldn’t be easy. There are going to be burdens to bear. To these 11 there would even be martyrdom and exile to endure. They knew what this inferred. He was laying it out straight for them.
We are all charged up with following Jesus. We get excited about the idea of Him doing great things in our midst. “Yea God!” We are all about the miracle moments of the multiplying of the loaves and fishes…which we see personal benefit from. But…what about the burdens? What about the persecutions? What about the difficult times? What about the suffering? Are we gonna walk away from those? Are we gonna quit and say, “this is too much.”?
Burdens and suffering are going to come this year just as they have come this past year. These are things we must bear as Christ’s followers…NOT things we have put on ourselves because of sin, selfishness, disobedience, rebellion. Those are different because they are consequences for sin.
Burdens are going to come each day…daily take up your cross. My burdens are not going to be the same as yours, and yours are not going to be the same as someone elses. Don’t get caught up in who is carrying what. The burdens are simply things that are going to come each day that we have to deal with. These will be things that God will use to shape us and mold us into the likeness of His Son…which is what it means to come after Jesus…to be made over into the His likeness. This won’t happen just once, but over our whole life. That’s why we must take up our cross daily.
This may be a burden that will bring suffering into our lives, but we must be ready to suffer for Christ. We must also know that all of these are for our good and His glory.
SO WHAT IS CROSS MAY GOD BE ASKING YOU TO BEAR THIS YEAR? WILL YOU MAKE A COMMITMENT TO DO TRUST HIM NO MATTER WHAT BURDENS COME? WILL YOU COMMIT TO ALLOWING HIM TO MOLD AND SHAPE YOU THIS YEAR INTO THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST THROUGH BURDENS, CHALLENGES?
- FOLLOW HIM
…both of these terms, deny yourself and take up your cross, are in the sense that they take place in a point of time. This phrase follow me is an ongoing term. It isn’t just a one time thing, but continuous. It isn’t just something that happens at a certain point in time, but is actively happening in an ongoing manner.
We must be willing to follow Jesus no matter what we see on the road ahead. No matter what we think things are going to turn out to be…because they likely won’t turn out how we think.
ARE YOU WILLING TO FOLLOW JESUS IN 2013 OR WILL YOU SIMPLY PLAY IT SAFE AND TRUST IN YOUR OWN WISDOM, YOUR OWN STRNGTH, DEPEND ON WHAT YOU CAN SEE AND FILLYOUR LIFE WITH YOUR OWN DESIRES?
If you do you’ll be settling for less. You’ll not experience God in a powerful way this day, this year…or any year.
Here’s The Thing… What do you really want out of this year? More of the same? Or something greater?
If we are to be what God wants us to be and if we are to experience the abundant life as He promises us and if we are to make a difference in this community, the world and the next generation, there are some things we must do. However, like I said, most of us likely won’t do these, but I pray that we will…that I will. It starts with just today, just this moment.
“deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him”