A couple of days ago, I sat down at the kitchen table early in the morning and lifted a hot cup of coffee to my lips. As I waited for the steam to evaporate off my glasses (an almost daily occurrence), I prayed, “Lord, give me something fresh today . . . something from You, but new to me.” We’ve been strolling through Mark, taking a few verses at a time (see *this post* for more on having a quiet time), so this particular morning, I picked up at Mark 8:34.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
How many times have you read that verse? How many times have you heard it preached? How could I possibly see anything new here?
I could have kept going, but the Holy Spirit drew me toward the verbs.
Becoming an authentic Christ-follower (a.k.a. disciple) means:
Deny – We refuse the right to act on our own opinions or seek our own comfort. We do not pursue our own advancement. We release all rights to His purpose and glory.
Pick up – We “own” the gifts and burdens that glorify Him. This entails responsibilities as well as spiritual gifts, but it also relates to our identification with Him. Yes, this is who I am: a Christ-follower.
Follow – We submit to His will and go where He goes, but this is also an active pursuit because we want to engage Him, enjoy Him, and learn to emulate Him. (Ooohhh—that’ll preach!)
I thought on the images these verbs create, and He gave me an analogy.
The Christ-life is a treacherous mountain trail, but we have the perfect guide. If you undertake a major, multi-day hike in unfamiliar terrain, you are wise to hire a guide.
- You don’t and can’t know the right path to take or how many miles you need to cover today before you make camp. You must trust your guide. That means denying yourself—your opinions, your comfort, your rights. You can’t trust yourself even when you think you know best because you have no real understanding of the situation.
- You need to bring/carry exactly what He tells you to. Nothing more; nothing less. Obedience in this area will literally save your life. He says you don’t need it? Then you don’t pack it. He says to wear two pairs of socks, you pull on more socks. That’s taking up your cross.
- You must stay behind the guide. Go where He goes; step where He steps; eat what He eats. When He speaks, you listen because He has the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). The more you get to know Him, the more you will want to be like him. You try to stay close to Him not just so you’ll be safe, but so you can hear his stories and learn from his experience. That’s following Him.
So sorry, all you fans of Disney’s Cars.
The closing song in that very-fun movie says, “Life is a highway,” but it’s not. It’s a narrow, treacherous, sometimes indiscernible trail across a wide range of mountains. There are peaks and valleys, rests beside streams of cool water and arduous treks across arid plateaus, gorgeous sunsets and torrential downpours, but in every environment and every weather condition, we have the perfect Guide.