Jesus came to restore the image of God in mankind. He accomplished his mission by making salvation a possibility for every person. In return, Jesus makes demands of his disciples.
A disciple of Christ is one who makes Christ the Lord of his life.
Then he said to them all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Notice he said we are to do three things:
Take up our crosses daily
The first commitment of a disciple is to deny himself. That doesn’t mean to reject your identity but to renounce the self-centred life. Jesus is our model for self-denial. He gave up the ideal life in heaven to rescue and to renew sinful humanity.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Phil.2:6-8).
Let’s draw a circle to represent you.
If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Both Jesus’ teaching and his example show that he considered the family to be important. Jesus never intended that our commitment to him should excuse family members of their responsibility for each other. He does demand that all commitments – even those between family members – be subject to his lordship. That simply means that nothing can be more important to us than Christ.
Remaining in Christ
In Luke 9:24 Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Jesus explained that those who persist in self-love will lose the very essence of life. The motivation to practice self-denial is because of a new source of life in the centre of their personalities: Christ. They have a new loyalty. Their focus is no longer on self-service and self-love. Their service and love are concentrated on Christ and others.
In Galatians 2:20 Paul said, “ 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 for me.” The Christ who lived in him was now the new source of life in the centre of his personality.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Christ said he is the vine and we are the branches. But the branches are part of the vine. We are a part of Christ. He wants to live his life through us.
[Come back every Thursday for all five parts of this series]