"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up the cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever would lose his life for my sake will find it."
( Luke 9:23)
What does it mean to follow Jesus? Are we to expect a life of health, wealth or prosperity? Do we all quit our jobs and head to the mission field? What really is the calling of the average Christian?
Here in Luke's gospel, Jesus comes right to the point. He lays out the requirements for following him. He doesn't give us a formula for a casual Christianity free from suffering and pain. Instead Jesus says that it could very well cost us our lives.
Jesus says, "deny yourself," that is, if you want to follow me, you must love me more than your life. Jesus immediately exposes what our true motives are for following him. Is it our self-interests? Or is is to please and honor God with a life of self-sacrifice and and obedience?
I have a very precious friend in Tehran, Iran. I cannot mention her name for her own protection. She comes from a Muslim family and explained to me that ever since she was a child she had been attracted to Jesus. In Islam, Jesus is just a Prophet, not the Son of God. Muslims worship Allah. Yet my friend's heart was drawn to Jesus. She shared with me than whenever she was afraid she immediately called out to Jesus. Just recently my friend embraced the Gospel and believed that Jesus died for her sins and rose again from the dead. "I am willing to believe in this because of my love for Jesus," My friend confessed to me.
I am in awe of my friends's courage and faith. She is an example to every Christian. In her last message to me my friend understands the cost of following Jesus. She declared that "If my country finds out somebody changed their religion, they will find him and kill him."
"Unless you deny yourself and take up the cross daily, you cannot be my disciple."
My friend understands these sobering words of Jesus. She has counted the cost and is still willing to follow Jesus. I am speechless! I am humbled and yet inspired by this young girl's incredible faith. We can learn so much from her.
Are we as Christians willing to follow her example? Most of us live in a country with so many luxuries and freedoms. We take our freedoms for granted everyday. My christian life has been challenged and changed by my Iranian friend. There is a cost for following Jesus. Are we willing to count the cost like my Iranian friend has done?