In pursuing spiritual growth as a Christian believer, it involves navigating various challenges along the way. Here’s how Jesus simply put it: And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). There’s a cost in following Jesus and we must learn to count the cost in doing so. Somebody described what is and what is not about the cost of following Jesus:
Counting the cost means recognizing and agreeing to some terms first. In following Christ, we cannot simply follow our inclinations. We cannot follow Him and the world's way at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). Following Him may mean we lose relationships, dreams, material things, or even our lives.
Allow me to expound on what Jesus meant and the prerequisites involved in following Him. When Jesus spoke then (“And he said to all…”), He still speaks today with the same challenging message of choosing Him above anyone and anything in this world. When an individual hears and heeds the calling of Jesus, it is a wholehearted decision with an unwavering determination of choosing Jesus above oneself (“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…”). The apostle Paul illustrated it similar to an athlete:
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Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. ~1 Corinthians 9:26-27
Next, it is a resolution made daily (“…take up his cross daily and…”) with a clear view of what’s ahead and a willingness of forsaking distractions in following Christ. The apostle Paul shared his heart on this matter: I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20). Finally, there’s a focused destination ahead with Jesus (“…follow me”). The apostle John shared a wonderful picture of this decision: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
Even if more than two thousand years since Jesus came, the prerequisites of discipleship never change today. In attaining victory, we need to look to Jesus! Jonathan Parnell shared, “Looking to Jesus means relying on him. The word translated “looking” has the idea of zeroing our gaze on something with confidence. Looking to Jesus means looking to him alone. Looking to Jesus means he is our reward.” In knowing what’s ahead, we need to listen to Jesus! J. G. Machen, an American Presbyterian New Testament scholar and educator in the early 20th century (Wikipedia) shared, “The more we know of God, the more unreservedly we will trust him; the greater our progress in theology, the simpler and more childlike will be our faith.”
Lastly, in discovering the lessons of spiritual growth. We need to learn about Jesus! Jesus Himself encouraged us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Matthew 11:29a). I found this enlightening insight from Bits & Pieces (April 2, 1992): “Learning usually passes through three stages. In the beginning you learn the right answers. In the second state you learn the right questions. In the third and final stage, you learn which questions are worth asking.”
In summary, while salvation is free, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave this stark reminder “but discipleship will cost you your life.” When all is said and done, the prize of following Jesus outweighs the price of following Jesus because He is worth following. He gave His life and died for us and that’s more than enough reason for giving our life to Him. After knowing this truth, what’s holding you back in following Him?
Let’s talk again!