To Follow Christ Daily

“And [Jesus] said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”   Luke 9:23

Well there it is, Jesus’ simple plan for being a Christian.  It’s not some complicated theology of salvation.  It’s not some theoretical discussion or intellectual journey.

It’s a straightforward demand that is not complicated but takes commitment.  It is simple but profound.  And it is not necessarily the easiest thing in the world… to leave all for Christ and actually follow him.

There were people in Jesus’ day who professed loyalty and vowed to follow him where ever he went (see Matt 8:19,20).  But I don’t think Jesus was looking for the kind of loyalty to his personality that some folks then and now lavish on a celebrity.

He didn’t want people just to traipse around, doggedly following his every move.  He wanted his disciples not to copy his behavior and words but to accept and follow his teachings, to live his ideas in their own lives.

He wanted disciples who would live according to God’s will instead of their own.

The first step:  deny yourself.

What on earth does that mean—to deny yourself?  To say we don’t exist?  Of course not.  Among other things, I think it means that we put our own will aside and seek God’s will. To please God instead of earthly personalities—including ourselves.

It is no small feat to get yourself out of the way so you can honestly and sincerely desire to do God’s will before your own.  But you can’t stop there.  It’s not enough to tell God you’re willing to do whatever He says.  You have to follow through and actually DO it.

We usually tell God what we want instead of asking what He wants.  Or as my friend Jim says, “We pray for God’s will and then tell Him what it is.”

It takes a humble heart to set aside even our most cherished hopes and dreams and trust ourselves totally to God’s care and live our lives accordingly.

But this IS something we can do.  Jesus did not make any demands on us that we could not fulfill.

Step two:  take up your cross daily.

I’ve always wondered at this saying.  Jesus had not yet been on the cross.  His disciples were unaware that he would be.  What did they think this meant at the time?  I bet they thought about this demand in a whole new light after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

To take up your cross is to face the world’s opposition to the truth that Jesus preached.  It looked like Jesus was destroyed by this opposition.  But just the opposite is true.  He was the ultimate victor.

Jesus gave his disciples the authority and dominion to cast out evil spirits and heal the sick.  Christ gives you and me the same authority today.

We are to take up our cross.  Jesus did not say: Let the cross take you up.  In other words, we do not need to feel that by taking up our cross that we are being crucified—although sometimes it certainly feels like it.

Jesus is not telling us to be crucified.  He is commanding us—and giving us authority—to take up the cross, to deal with and defeat the material world’s resistance to and hatred of spiritual Truth.

And in case you didn’t notice, he says “daily.”  It is a daily process, a way of life.  Not just a one-time or occasional effort.  To be a Christian requires day by day, step by step consistency.

Step three:  “follow me.”

Whoa!!  That’s a tall order.  Thousands and thousands of books have been written about what it means to follow Jesus.  So I won’t try to say too much here.

What did Jesus mean when he said simply, “Follow me”?

Jesus expected his disciples then and now to follow him:  to think the thoughts he thought, to act the way he acted, to love with the Father’s love as he did, to seek and do God’s will in everything.

Christ calls to each of us today, “Follow me.”  There is no call more urgent.

How will you respond?

What if Jesus had been on the Titanic?

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”          Mark 4:39

Recently in my Bible study, we got to talking about some of the challenges we face.  Sound familiar?  Someone said, “What if Jesus walked through the door?  Would you ask him to heal you or solve your problems for you?  What do you think he would do?”

We all pretty much agreed that Jesus would heal us, forgive us or help us in whatever way we needed.

What about a life threatening situation?  Have you ever been on boat or plane or even your own house during a violent storm?  It can be pretty scary sometimes because you realize it could be a life or death situation.

What if Jesus had been on the Titanic?  Could he have saved everyone?

Several years ago I was on a plane flying into Boise, ID.  It was late at night and the pilot had to abort the first attempt to land about 25 feet from the ground because the wind was so strong.  For 20 minutes we held on for dear life as he circled for a second attempt.  It felt like we were inside a basketball being dribbled down the court.

Boy oh boy, was I praying.

And I wasn’t the only one.  The lady next to me–a total stranger–reached for my hand and we took turns praying out loud.  The storm was fierce and the atmosphere in the cabin was thick and heavy with fear.

But gradually the fear melted away as I got this wonderful feeling that God was holding that plane in His hands and that we were safe in His care.  In a few minutes which seemed like forever, we landed pretty roughly but intact and a big cheer went up.

Now let’s do a little experiment.  Close you eyes and imagine yourself on ship or a plane  in a violent storm or a similar life threatening situation.  You are terrified, but suddenly you realize that Jesus is sitting right beside you.  Would that make a difference in how you feel?  Oh yeah, big time!

But then you realize Jesus is asleep.  How would you feel then?  Now maybe you’re one of those people who would calmly reason that since Jesus is there, everything will be okay.  But if you’re like me, you’d probably shake Jesus awake and ask him to do something.

This probably sounds familiar because that’s exactly what Jesus’ disciples did when he was asleep in the back of the boat during a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

The wind was fierce.  The waves had filled the boat with water.  And the disciples were scared to pieces.  They thought they were going to drown.  But Jesus was right there with them.  But he was asleep.  There’s no mention in Mark 4:36-40 that the disciples had prayed about the situation.  In fact Jesus rebukes them for their fear and lack of faith.

What if we are on the boat with Jesus?

Would we have acted much differently?  You can hardly blame the disciples for being afraid.  They had seen Jesus heal the sick and cast out evil spirits, but this was totally unexpected.  They were dumb struck that “even the wind and the sea obey him.”

So why did Jesus rebuke his disciples?  Because they had not put into practice what he had already taught them about God’s omnipotence!  (God’s omnipotence!  There’s a concept we could all do better at actually living in our lives.)

Jesus had taught them how to heal, how to turn to God for every need.  What if they had fearlessly stilled the storm themselves by turning to God and not even needed to wake up their Master?  Instead of rebukes, how do you think Jesus would have responded?

Jesus knew he would soon leave the world and he wanted his disciples–that includes you and me today–not just to lean on him personally but to obey his teachings and rely on the same divine source of power that he did:  God.

When you are being tossed by the tempestuous winds and waves of life’s challenges, you have several choices.  You can panic, which seems totally natural and is often our first response.  But you really can’t stay in a state of panic if you want to solve the problem.

Wake up Christ within you.

You can go “wake up Jesus who is asleep in the back of the boat.”  We all need to rouse the spirit of Christ within us, which sometimes seems dormant in the back of our minds.  We know Christ is with us, but are we truly awake to his presence?

The best option is to be so conscious of Christ’s presence that we feel the authority he gives us to command the storms of life, literal and figurative.

So what if Jesus had been on the Titanic?  I have absolutely no doubt he would have completely saved the entire situation.

Sometimes we think:  If Jesus were here, that would solve all our problems.  But Jesus’ physical presence is not the solution.  Just because he was on the boat wasn’t enough to still the storm–or the disciples’ fear.  The same is true today.  If Jesus were here right now, that alone would not solve any problems.  It is the exercise of Christly authority that heals and saves.

Never underestimate the authority Christ has given you to still the storms of life.  Use it in his name to heal, to bind up the wounded and fearful hearts, to redeem the times.  It is your gift back to him.