Our last requirement, to many of us, is the hardest and the most controversial. Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Compound this passage with a companion scripture a few chapters later in Luke. Here Jesus says, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’” Luke 14:25-33
What is Jesus doing? What is he saying? Is Jesus purposely trying to drive the large crowds away? Is he advocating a “survival-of-the-fittest” following, trying to weed out the weak, the sinful, and those who are heavily committed to family and jobs? Is he establishing some “cult” with stringent demands designed to divide families and promote poverty? Hate wife and children? Give up everything you have? What in the world is he saying here? To better assimilate this into our thinking, let’s note the following breakdowns of these scriptures.
- A DISCIPLE ________________________________ SELF.
A life of self-denial is not always a bad thing. Often, it is the step toward greatness. Look at the example of world-class athletes, successful entrepreneurs, people who have overcome addictions, those who have sacrificed to become debt-free, and so forth. Jesus is directly calling us to the highest level of self-denial for our eternal benefit!
- A DISCIPLE MUST BEAR THEIR _______________________________ DAILY.
The “daily” requirement means that I will live with a spiritual mindset that every day I belong to Christ, that I represent Christ, and that I am to die daily to my desires in order to please him.
- A DISCIPLE ____________________________ THEIR RELATIONSHIPS AND THEIR OWN LIFE.
What Jesus is talking about here is the element of the degree to which we love and serve him and others.
- A DISCIPLE MUST GIVE UP ___________________________________________ THEY HAVE.
To those connected too much to the world and its things and pleasures, this sounds very ominous. But let me let Jesus explain this to you. Just four chapters later in the book of Luke, he encounters the Rich Young Ruler and tells him that, despite his great qualities, he “lacks one thing.” Jesus tells him, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come follow me.” Does this sound harsh? Not at all. He sees in the young man’ heart that he has an idol – it is his wealth. When the disciples questioned his demands after the young man walked away sadly, Jesus taught them this principle that we need to comprehend as well. Hear his words:
“Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:20-30
QUESTIONS & EXERCISES
For Daily Devotionals or Bible Study Group
- As we close out this series, do some review and reflecting on the four “Jesus Requirements.” Which of the four is the most challenging for you? Which of the four is where you shine the brightest, showing yourself to be a disciple of Christ? Write out some steps you could take to grow in each of these:
• “Abide in His Word”
• “Love One Another”
• “Bear Much Fruit”
• “Deny Yourself”
- When it comes to denying yourself:
• Read the stories of the Rich Young Ruler, Rich Farmer, & the Barren Fig Tree. What do you learn?
• Consider some of Jesus’ “hard-to-digest” demands in Luke 9:57-62. What is he saying?
• Give thought to how the Apostle Paul lived out a surrendered lifestyle in Romans 9:3, 1 Corinthians 9:12, 27, 2 Corinthians 12:15, Galatians 2:20, and Philippians 1:21.
- What is the picture you see in your mind about bearing your cross daily? What does that mean to you?
- When it comes to the “hate” terminology that Jesus used in our relationships, how do you reconcile that to the other teachings in the Bible to love your spouse, care for your children, honor your parents, etc.?
- What have you given up for Christ? Have you given everything you have? What does that mean? What are the practical applications of such a teaching? Is there an area of your life where you need to surrender it more to the cause of Christ? Do you trust in God’s promises to take care of you and to bless in this life and the life to come?