Luke 9:23 “ And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
You have heard the saying, “He’s a hard act to follow.” Well Jesus Christ is an impossible person to follow. Meaning, He was sinless, and IN SPITE OF the trials and afflictions He faced, He always responded with grace. As hard as we may try, we can never attain either of those attributes this side of heaven. Yet Jesus speaks to those that were currently following Him during His life and makes the bold statement in Luke 9:23 about being one who will follow Him. The Lord says in Luke 14:27 “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart, it is a life that we must live IN SPITE OF the crosses we bear ourselves. It goes beyond just being born again, after trusting Christ as our Savior we begin the process of following Him.
But what about the crosses we are called to bear in the process? Jesus was telling those that followed Him then and us today, “Trials will come, that is when you can show you are a true disciple of mine.” Following Christ when life is “good” is not all that difficult, but when we are under a heavy load of problems and pain, the road gets pretty rough. That is when we ask the hard questions, and begin to doubt God’s love for us. After all, if He is in control how could He let this happen to me? Getting saved is easy, the Lord paid the price of our sin; following Christ on the other hand, is not always an easy thing to do. Here are three qualifications of a true disciple of Christ.
- Deny ourselves – Today far too many of us have a “Me first” attitude. So when trials come our natural focus becomes ourselves. The Christian life is what I like to all, “The contrary life.” The life the Lord desires of us is not how we naturally want to live. Denying ourselves means that we must put Christ’s commands and our influence on the world around us as a priority. The impact we can have on others around starts by using the IN SPITE OF in our life as an opportunity to let God show his power and strength through us, living with a presence of peace in the midst of our pain.
- Deal with our daily dilemma – That is the cross we are called to bear. The cross is a symbol of pain and suffering, something we all want to avoid at any cost in our lives. However, it is a requirement of discipleship. Jesus told His disciples that it is the will of the Father that they bear fruit, He also informed them that in order to bear much fruit the disciple must go through the pruning process. Painful, yet important for us. Let’s be honest, when we are dealing with hard circumstances in our life we pray more and look to the Lord for help. Taking up our cross daily isn’t a pleasant thing, but a needed practice.
- Get divine direction – The Lord tells those that will come after Him to: deny self, take up our cross daily and follow. Follow, not lead! In other words, don’t try to get God to go along with our agenda, get our agenda in line with His will. Far too often we make up a plan to get our way. It may even involve the cross we are bearing. We try to manipulate our circumstances to fit into our plan. That is usually when we make a mess of things. We must remember that there is always a divine purpose in our life. God desires to use us for His glory. Often that involves our hardest of times. Not always enjoyable, but effective in His plan. We need to follow, not get ahead of the Lord.
Following Christ IN SPITE OF our cross may not be the most convenient life, but it is the most rewarding. I can think of nothing better than to be used in the work of God. Do we qualify as a true disciple today? May the Lord teach us to trust Him as we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him.
More inspiring thoughts of living IN SPITE OF can be found in the book: “Finding Grace and Peace IN SPIT OF Trials and Tragedy, The Johnny Ashley Story” This book may be purchased by clicking on the link below.