Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 1 August 19:
Luke 9:23-25, 62 — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” … Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus defines the path of discipleship which cannot be followed without the power of the Holy Spirit.
It starts with denying self (selflessness). That alone is worth meditating on all day today and with great self-examination. Denying self is not the same as self-denial (such as restricting your diet (denying yourself food) in order to lose weight for self-centered reasons). Denying yourself is truly surrendering all ambition and motivation to God and serving others in His name and for His glory, as His “ambassador.” How much does self-centeredness influence even how we read and interpret the Bible? The battle against self (the flesh) is our greatest battle. Jesus said that with salvation comes the death of self, and if we don’t die of self, we will “forfeit” ourselves – hard words to hear. We see throughout Luke 9 how the disciples stumble over “self,” fighting over which of them would be the greatest (9:46), getting jealous of other preachers (9:49), and letting anger disorient them (9:54). For their self-centeredness, Jesus rebuked them and reminded them, “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (9:55, 48) How many of us are working diligently to become the least?
– Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
– Galatians 5:24 — And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Taking up the cross is a daily process that is not just about suffering as church tradition would often suggest (everyone suffers) – it is about claiming our identity in Christ, living for Christ alone, and willingly suffering maltreatment in our relationships with others for sake of the Gospel and our ministry of reconciliation. Taking up the cross daily involves forgiving unconditionally, giving abundantly, loving your enemies, and proclaiming the Gospel, regardless the personal cost so others might come to know Jesus. Giving, forgiving, witnessing, and suffering for sake of the Gospel require faith – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Every day, God will give you the opportunity to do all these things; will you be faithful in faith?
Following Jesus – this is where the rubber meets the road. Jesus first commanded the disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) The Bibles says they “rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9) Those who recognize who Christ really is, who truly appreciate the grace, gift of eternal life, and immeasurable riches they have received in Him; and who understand their total dependence on Him (like the vine is dependent on the branch – John 15) follow Him. (Matthew 9:27) This is something that the prideful and ambitious cannot do (Matthew 19:21) – you cannot live your life and follow Jesus at the same time; it is an all-or-nothing proposition. We must follow without any hesitation, wholeheartedly (Luke 9:59), no looking back. Those who do follow Jesus will reign with him in the Kingdom. (Matthew 19:28) Jesus is the Way the Truth the Life and the Light. When we are not following Jesus, but rather going our own way, we are walking in darkness. (John 8:12) Christians follow no one but Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:4)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 August 19: Deny self, take up your cross, and follow Jesus today.