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September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me . . ."—Matthew 16:24 (PHILLIPS)
The word follow has lost a lot of meaning in our social media culture. I “follow” a myriad of people, organizations, brands, restaurants, blogs, etc. What does that even mean, though? Well, for me it means every once in a while, I see something they’ve written or a photo they posted, and I probably hit the “like” button or double tap the image . . . but then I get on with my life. And if they say or post something I don’t like, I simply unfollow.
But that’s not what Jesus was talking about. In today’s verse, the Son of God tells us very clearly how He defines following Him, and it doesn’t involve a double tap. He tells us, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.” In the Greek, giving up all rights to oneself is such a strong expression. It means to disown, to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection to something. This is the same expression used when Peter denied Christ three times.
So, to follow Christ means to disown our pride and the illusion of control. It means to forfeit, to relinquish, to surrender our will, whims, and wants, to deny our claim over our own lives. One theologian put it this way: “The man is to deny his whole self, all his natural motives and impulses, so far as they come into conflict with the claims of Christ.” This self-denial of the highest, ultimate degree that Jesus demands here is the same kind He modeled when He “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7 NIV).
And He takes it a step further, instructing us to willingly and cheerfully carry our cross as He did, to endure trials and tribulations that the providence of God may bring our way in order to accomplish His purpose and His will for His glory! This is what it takes to be a disciple, a Christ-follower.
Sadly, it seems today that Jesus has many “followers” in the same sense as I do on Instagram. We double tap discipleship, but rarely disown our will and wants for the sake of carrying our cross. Friends, Jesus is calling us to be absolutely serious and sold out about becoming new creations in Him, about being ardently enthralled, persistently passionate zealots; people who are downright devoted to imitating Christ and instilling Christ in others!
So, what kind of follower are you?
DIG: Read Matthew 16 and Luke 9:57–62.
DISCOVER: How do you define following Jesus? What does it look like to you? How are you living your definition out? Does you definition match up with Jesus’?
DISPLAY: Make a commitment—or recommitment—today to deny yourself and take up your cross. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see it to constantly remind you of what you signed up for when you received Jesus, of what Jesus expects. Next to it, write down Revelation 4:11 (NIV), “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” and Romans 5:8 (NIV), “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This will help serve as a beautiful reminder of why you willingly denied yourself, why you willingly carry your cross every day . . . because He is worthy, He is Lord, and He willingly gave Himself up for you and carried your cross.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.