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“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23 NASB from http://www.blueletterbible.org

Vocabulary Words:

DENY: ἀπαρνέομαι – aparneomai – ap-ar-neh’-om-ahee: to deny utterly, that is, disown, abstain: – deny.  

“As always, should any member of your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow (disown, deny utterly, abstain from acknowledging) all knowledge of your actions.” – Mission Impossible Parenthetical are mine.

TAKE UP HIS CROSS: σταυρός – stauros – stow-ros’: a stake or post (as set upright), that is, (specifically) a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively exposure to death, that is, self-denial; by implication the atonement of Christ: – cross. Put yourself to death.

FOLLOW: – ἀκολουθέω – akoloutheo¯ – ak-ol-oo-theh’-o : (as a particle of union) and κέλευθος keleuthos (a road); properly to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany (specifically as a disciple): – follow, reach. “Walk in MY shoes” 

It is insane for me to ask to be remade in the Character of Christ, and still insist that I do not have to sacrifice my personal goals and will in order to gain Christ’s will for me. This is a disconnect in my thinking.

The context of the above verse is that salvation and discipleship are the same thing. There is no separation.

I know from experience that my way is not pleasing to God. I know from experience that the longer I “Play Church”, the less love I have for the Creator, and the more weary I get from the effort of faking it. The end result is the same. Empty hollowness. A vacuum is filling the space where the image of Christ should be.

“Many are called, but few are chosen.” Jesus said this long before the Marines did, and for entirely different reasons. When I feel the call on my life, to serve Christ, to become His disciple, to be to the world what Christ was to the world, I have a choice to make.

I can follow the call, or I can remain where I am. In God’s economy, there is no such thing as a “nominal” Christian, any more than there is “nominal” pregnancy. One either is, or is not.

The desperation I immediately feel is that I know I do not compare to Christ at all, in any way. Just ask all the “Christians” who know me. I am saved by His blood, and I have confessed that He is the Son of the Living God, and that He has proven He has the right to be called “Lord of Life” by the fact that He raised Himself from death. In doing all this, He has given me eternal life.

While it is true that the thief on the cross did not have the opportunity to go through extensive discipleship to be saved, He did the one thing that proved he was saved, He acknowledged that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, and he followed Jesus into paradise.

But the rest of us, having made that confession, will immediately feel His call to discipleship. It was true of the original 12, and it is still true for all who claim Jesus as Lord.

Few Are Chosen:

The next thing I realize is that, every time I try, on my own power, to make my self into the image of Christ, I fail miserably. I cannot make myself anything that I am not intimately familiar with. What I end up making is a mess.

The Church of Easy Believism teaches that there is no need to be made in His image, that He accepts you as you are and you don’t have to change a thing.

It is true that Jesus accepts you as you are. Look at the woman who was caught in adultery. The ONE who had the authority and right to condemn her did not. Instead, he told her that He does not accuse her sin to her (Or God). But easy believism seems to stop there. Jesus also said, “Go and sin no more.”

Again, I find myself in a quandary, because I recognize my inability to prevent myself from being selfish, self-centered, rebellious, lustful, proud, arrogant, and lacking in love toward anything and anyone, including myself. How am I going to “sin no more”?

We are chosen when we realize our state of depravity and our inability to change ourselves on our own power, and see that the only way to Christ Likeness is to die to our own lusts and give up our will for ourselves and let Christ do His perfect work in us. We are chosen when we first deny ourselves.

he must deny himself” : to deny utterly, that is, disown, abstain

When I finally get to the point that I see that I am not holy, that I am depraved, that my every desire is for myself, but all I really want is to serve Christ and be made into His image, then I have to deny myself. This is where discipleship begins.

I am telling Jesus, “I am tired of my way. I am tired of my sinful nature. I cannot do this at all without you doing it in me. I have reached a point that I am so fed up with me, that I want to disown myself, I want nothing to do with me, any more. I just want all my being to be Christ and Christ alone.”

I can honestly say this is true of me. After these past 20 years, I have reached a point that I would rather die than continue to live being the insufferable bastard that is David. But I know there is a better way out than any solution I can conceive. I have asked Christ to do away with my self-interest and self centeredness, and my character, and replace it with the Image of Christ.

This is what it means to deny yourself. It is not some form of legalism. But it is true that you must FIRST do this if you want to follow Christ. And even this is not something you can do for yourself. It is a work of the Holy Spirit to a submitted heart. I can easily keep anything I want of my character. The Holy Spirit is not going to force me to give anything up that I want to keep. But the more He shows me Jesus, the more of Jesus I want to be. It is not something I can do for me.

But to keep maintaining a lifestyle that is displeasing to the Lord, and insist that Jesus will have to just accept it, is to walk away from the call of discipleship, and Christ likeness. Any part of my self I insist I keep, I have determined that that is more important than the work the Holy Spirit is trying to do in me.

It is true that Jesus accepts you just as you are. You do not have to clean up to take a shower, and you cannot be sinless in order to become forgiven. Spiritual cleanliness is the work of the Living God. And God will take a repentant heart and tell it, “I do not count your past as sin against me, because you have accepted My Son as the sacrifice for all your sin.”

Recognizing you need a shower is the first step in getting clean. Now comes the call and commitment.

When you have come to the point that you are to grow in Christ-likeness, and you have recognized that your character needs to be replaced with His character, then the cost of following Him becomes real.

and take up his cross daily” – figuratively exposure to death, that is, self-denial; by implication the atonement of Christ: – cross. Put yourself to death.

This is where the few are chosen. I cannot and am not willing to put myself to death. My self-will, my self contentedness, “My way or the Highway”, telling Christ, “I am what I am, you will just have to deal with it, because you love me any way”, all the excuses we have for not becoming like Christ, will suddenly loom large. You have to look at each item and decide if this is what you want to give up in order to follow Christ.

There are no half measures when it comes to Christ Likeness. The Holy Spirit is patient, and gentle, but ever insistent over everything that stands between you and the Character of Jesus. Every bit of your sinful character has to go. This is a lifelong process. The interesting thing is, that the more I see of Jesus, the more I genuinely want to live as He lived on this earth. The less of myself I want to keep. It is a joy to give up hate, arrogance, my temper, my condescending nature, all the lusts that drive me, and it is especially a delight to see my sin nature die, as the Holy Spirit reveals more of Jesus in my heart.

Jesus addresses all the “nominal Christians” who claimed to follow Him. He told them, “I never knew you.”

I am having to learn, as frightening as it may be, that I have to be willing to give up everything I hold dear to follow Him. He may never ask me for my body to be put to death for Him, but I have to be willing to go there if that is what it takes. He may never ask me to give up all my material possessions to follow Him, but I have to be willing to do this without hesitation in order to follow Him.

God sees the intent of our hearts. I want my intent and all my desires to be the ones God has given me, not the ones I have chosen for my self. My flesh is at war with God. I win when I lose.

This realization is the taking up of your cross daily. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to do a perfect work in you, even if you don’t see why it is necessary. But the more you understand God and His word, the more you will understand the necessity of taking up your cross, giving up your personal ambitions, and disowning your will for the will of God.

This doesn’t mean you will be a robot. You get to keep your personality. That is part of your individuality. God gave you that personality. What it does mean is that that personality, instead of acting out every selfish desire of your character, will be used to show the character of Christ.

This is something you have to do daily. Yesterday’s manna will not feed you today.

 “follow Me : – ἀκολουθέω – akoloutheo¯ – ak-ol-oo-theh’-o : (as a particle of union) and κέλευθος keleuthos (a road); properly to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany (specifically as a disciple): – follow, reach. 

Following Jesus is to become just like Jesus. We will still sin, but not by a depraved intention. But when we sin, we will suddenly see a part of our-self that still does not resemble Christ, and because of the love we have for our Lord and Savior, we WANT to give that to Him, so we can hear Him say, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”.

We are left on this earth after we were saved for this one reason. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. We, individually, are the Church. We collectively are the body of Christ. We, as individuals and as a group, are the only Jesus most humans will ever see.

It is the strong desire of my heart that I give up anything in my life that stands between a fallen one and Jesus. Jesus said that we will do the things He did, and greater things will we do. But not if we are not willing to give our entire selves up to be like Him.

This was true of Peter, James, John, Paul, all of the disciples. And it is true of me and you. Nothing has changed.

This is not something you can do in yourself, either, it is a work of God only. When He calls you, count the cost. It will cost you everything, but you will gain eternity when you do it.

 “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23 NASB from http://www.blueletterbible.org

My Prayer:

Dearest God,

I praise you for Jesus’ life and death and resurrection.  I ask that you forgive my sin, and that you continue to work in me the thing I cannot do for myself: Make me over into the Image of Christ.  Thank you for your beauty, mercies and grace.  Thank you for creating me and all that exists.  Please get me out of my way of becoming like Jesus.  – AMEN