Being a disciple means following in Jesus’ footsteps. There are conditions and we must sit down and count the cost, whether we are willing to fulfill those conditions. (Luke 14:26-33) If we are willing to do all of that for Jesus’ sake, then we are already well on the way to being a disciple. Our love for Jesus causes us to fix our vision on one thing – following Him in order to be well-pleasing to Him. Now it comes down to the day-to-day life. Putting our good intentions to the test.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross, and follow me.” Matthew 16:24.
Every day of His life, Jesus took up His “cross.” Not the cross on Calvary. In this verse, He speaks about the cross before He was ever crucified. This “cross” was the place where the lusts in His flesh were denied, and met their death. In practical terms, this meant that He said “No!” to the demands of His human nature – envy, wrath, selfishness, malice, etc. By the strength given to Him by God, He fought against them and never gave in until He had victory over them.
The goal of the disciple being to follow the Master, that would mean that we are able to do the same. Otherwise we could not be disciples. Every day of our life we find sin in our flesh. We come into situations which stir up the lusts and desires of our flesh to tempt us. (James 1:14-15) What sets a disciple apart is how we react to those temptations. Just like Jesus, we also respond with a resounding “No!” With our vision fixed firmly on our goal of following Jesus, we know that the only option is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and overcome the sin. It means we consciously choose the good, putting to death our own will in order that God’s will be done. It means suffering sin into death, not once or twice, but in every single situation until we are finished with it.
We do this until it is no longer our own nature that is our natural reaction, but divine nature. The life of Christ becomes manifested in us. (Matthew 5:48; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 4:10-11)
A disciple is born again , with a new mind and a new heart. The things in the world that used to hold our attention and take up our time lose their value and meaning. With our new heart and mind, we get a sense for the things of God, and our eyes are open to the things that have true value. It’s these “enlightened eyes of the heart” (Ephesians 1:18) that spur us on and give us a vision for the goal we are striving for. It is those who love the truth and who want to be set free from sin who become born-again. They receive power to hate their own life and become Jesus’ disciples.
When Jesus prays for the disciples, He says, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17:15-16. We are “not of the world” because we have a far greater hope than anything earthly. In this hope there is growth, progress, and transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.
When we are weak, then He is strong
This is not something that we are able to do on our own, in our own strength. As humans we are weak when it concerns sin. Human nature would rather sin than suffer. So how are we to remain standing in these battles? How can we overcome sin when by nature we are so weak?
We humble ourselves, acknowledge our weakness, and ask God for strength and power, and He will supply it abundantly. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; James 4:6-9.
We are called to obedience. “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” Romans 1:5. If we follow this way of obedience to the faith – being obedient when the Spirit points out sin in our flesh that we must deny – we become disciples of Jesus. Without this radical attitude, we cannot conquer sin, and we cannot be a disciple.
As disciples we can say with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.