What does it mean to follow Christ?Truly following Christ requires everything you have. It is total dedication of your life and your resources to the cause of Christ. Jesus called people to follow Him, many of whom became His disciples (Matthew 4:18–22; 8:22; 9:9; 10:2–4; Luke 9:23; John 1:43). When people were interested in what Jesus had to offer them, He put out a call to follow Him: "And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it'" (Mark 8:34–35; see also John 3:16).
The requirements to follow Christ are not for the faint of heart. Jesus said: "'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). He concluded this passage by saying "'therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple'" (Luke 14:33; see Luke 14:25–33). This is strong language. Does it really mean that we have to hate our family members? Hardly! This passage does not mean that we cannot love or care for our families or the things we have been given, but rather, it makes the point that everything we may possess needs to be held with an open hand so that we may release it to Christ at any moment. It means we have to value Him more than we value anything or anyone else.
Jesus said that when we follow Him we will experience persecution for His sake (John 15:18; Matthew 5:10, 44; 10:17–18). Paul said: "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Persecution is uncomfortable. Following Christ may mean we are ridiculed by those who are closest to us. Even some of Jesus' disciples deserted Him on the night He was arrested (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50).
Look at the example of Moses found in Hebrews 11:24–26: "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." When we persevere with Christ, even through adversity, He promises us rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:11–12; 6:19–21). This is the greater treasure.
To follow Christ means that every area of our lives is submitted to Him. As we surrender every part of ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we are cleansed of unrighteousness and He is able to rule and reign in our lives, making us vessels acceptable for use: "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21). As we follow Christ, He becomes our primary desire and the measure by which we live our lives. We seek His presence and abide in Him (John 15:1–17). We seek to obey Him by loving God wholeheartedly and loving others as ourselves (John 13:34–35). We are responsive to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Philippians 2:12–13). In following Christ, we understand that this world is not ultimately our home, so we are willing to give our all to Him, knowing that true life is found only in Jesus (Matthew 10:39; John 10:10; 17:15–18; Philippians 3:20–21) We have this promise: "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).
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