As I was praying one morning and yet again reciting to the Lord all my shortcomings and should-have-done’s, it occurred to me that though I profess to be a follower of Christ, am I really following Christ?
Just because I’m a follower of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean I’m following Christ!
I follow a lot of people on social media. But, just because I follow them on Twitter doesn’t mean I always read their tweets. Just because I like them on Facebook doesn’t mean I want to be like them.
But, it’s different with following Jesus. He says you can’t just be a follower, you have to follow. And, following requires you to do something–or not do something–depending on how you look at it.
The scenario Jesus described when He admonished His disciples to give up their own way (deny self) and take up their respective crosses and follow after Him was one of a condemned person carrying a cross on the way to execution. This scenario was certainly one with which they were familiar as a manner of execution in the Roman Empire.
His disciples understood that He meant that the way you follow Him required total sacrifice.
Following Jesus means death to self–that is, a surrender of following after your own way or self-interest in favor of God’s way.
But, denying oneself is different from self-denial. Self-denial is often portrayed in terms of specific acts of self-control, abstinence, or moderation. Although acts of self-denial may have positive or useful purposes, these acts of self-denial are not what Jesus meant by denying oneself.
Denying yourself means ceasing to make your own will the object of life and making God’s will the focus of your life. Oswald Chambers describes denial of self as giving up your right to yourself and paraphrases Jesus’ admonition like this: “If you would be My disciple, give up your right to yourself to Me.”
Your will–the right to yourself–is the only thing you really possess. But, the right to yourself is also the basis for sin and separation from God.
The moral ground on which we form a relationship with God is only through Jesus, His Son, and not our own self-will or personality. And, Jesus made the choice clear for following Him: choose Him or choose self. We choose Him by relinquishing our right to ourselves.
So, following Jesus costs you everything and the only thing you really have, your right to your own self. But, when you deny your own self and follow Jesus, your natural life is replaced with eternal life, your destiny fulfilled, and your life takes on immeasurable value and eternal significance.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. (Philippians 3:8-9, NLT)