“[Jesus] said to all, ‘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?..’
“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:23-25,57-62
Follow? Sure! Deny and forfeit? No details? No hesitation? That’s harder. Following Jesus requires a reorientation of life priorities and possessions. Our passion for things of this world, and plans for the here and now, confront a cost of that whole temporal orientation toward a spiritual focus on eternity and the kingdom of God.
To follow Jesus means we learn to deny ourselves and any aspect of self that prevents us from walking with Him: maybe our comforts and pleasures, our need for approval, our plans and dreams, our calendar appointments, our close proximity to loved ones. We learn to measure not in hours and dollars and degrees, but in love and relationships and souls. We might trade pet causes for divine calling, and empty chatter for communion with God. We learn to count worth differently, releasing worldly interests and clutching the cross. We set our minds on heaven, and labor to lay up treasure there, ultimately to offer our Lord in glory. (Matthew 6:19-21; Colossians 3:1-4)
When we are sold out to Jesus and heed His call to follow, the world and its favors take on a different sheen. Over time, we are no longer attracted to empty conversations, wasteful spending, and meaningless entertainment. Our meditations turn upward, and outward. Our ongoing sanctification produces increasing love for the things of God and heaven, and greater desire to share them with a needy world. When we follow Jesus, we come to the end of the day, and of our days, holding that cross that has given meaning to every breath and unlimited worth to any cost expended. (Colossians 3:1-2)
What are we taking up each day before getting along our way? Our phones with all their fill of schedule, information, urgency, and opinion? Or our cross? With what tools do we attend responsibilities and relationships? Past baggage, self-asserted rights, preconceptions, prejudices? Or our cross? And what occupies our hands when we rise to follow Jesus? Our list of demands and disclaimers? Our wish list? Or our cross?
Oh Lord, help me follow You closely, wholeheartedly, and with open hands to relinquish my will for Yours, and my cares for Your glorious cross.