Matt. 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].
Here is an interesting question that when asked it is quite amazing the answers you will receive depending on who you ask; “What does it mean to be a Christian?” The most common answer I hear is that you must be born again. That is the first step to becoming what the Bible calls a Christian, but when you first get born again you are now a convert in Christ. The goal of Christianity is what Jesus declared in the great commission found in Matthew 28:19, to go and “MAKE DISCIPLES” of all people.
Here in Matthew 16:24 as the Amplified points out, if anyone desires to be His disciple there is more to becoming one of His disciples than just being born again. Other translations read, “If anyone desires to come after Me…” To come after Jesus is the same as saying that you desire to be a Christian, or in other words a Christ follower. When you talk about what a Christian is according to scripture you find out that the Bible teaches us a Christian is one who walks in the footsteps of Jesus. That is what Jesus wants us to do, and He wants us to go and produce more Christ followers.
John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
But before we go into this any further lets first define what a Christ follower looks like. Jesus began painting a very good picture of this here in John 14:12. Notice what He starts off with here. “Most assuredly”, that is an absolute. He goes on to tell us that if we believe in Him, the works that He did we will do also. Stop and meditate on that for a minute. The word used here for “believes” means to put confidence in, to trust, and to rely upon. For those who put their confidence in Jesus and rely upon Him, the works Jesus did they will do also.
What were the works Jesus did? You will find this answer not only in what we read about Jesus in the gospels, but it is also summarized in the Great Commission given to the church, His body. Jesus tells us in Mark’s account of the Great Commission that those who believe in Him will have signs that will follow their life. Those signs include casting out demons, speaking with new tongues, if they take up anything deadly it will not hurt them, and they will lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover.
So if a follower of Christ is one who does the works He did, which would also include raising the dead, how many who are born again today can say that they actually have these signs following them? Most only think that being a Christian means I go to church, don’t judged anyone, do my best to live right, and I go to heaven. They are not seeing any of these signs following them. If these signs are not following them then according to Mark 16:17 they must not truly believe in Him. Read His words for yourself.
Mark 16:17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;
Mark 16:18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The heart of what makes you a “Christ follower”, which again is what the heart of Christianity is all about, is in fact doing what Jesus did. Not to many years ago one of the Pastor’s of a large seeker friendly church admitted that with all their programs, and with the messages they preach, they in fact are not making Christ followers. It is not difficult to figure out why when you look at our foundation verse of Matthew 16:24. Jesus tells us what one must do to become a Christ follower, or in other words, one of His disciples. It begins with the words “If anyone desires to be My disciple…” for this is the one thing that no one can give you.
A Christ follower will bear the same fruit that Jesus bore. They will see the works that Jesus did being done through them. That is what Jesus wants us to do while here on earth. Yet we find out that there are those who are born again, they have become a baby convert in Christ, but they don’t have the “desire” to be His disciple. Think about what it means to become a disciple of Christ. This means you want to look, sound, and act like Him. A disciple will in fact become like his teacher.
Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.
This is the goal of a disciple, to become like their teacher. You must have a desire in your heart to become like Jesus if you want to be His disciple. Far too many who have become born again don’t really want to become like Jesus, for if they did they would not be satisfied with just going to church. They would want to see the works of Christ manifested through them.
I can remember at the age of 13 when I got on the back of my first bull, I wanted to become a professional bull rider. I had plenty of people who had told me I would not make it. I even had some who tried to get me to quit, and yet I was determined to get my Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card, and in 1985 that dream became a reality. I desired to accomplish this more than anything else in the world. That led me to seek out those who could disciple me and help me reach my goal. I was willing to do whatever it took to reach that goal.
What if we had that kind of desire to become a disciple of Christ? What if we had that kind of determination, even when others think we have gone off the deep end, to persevere and press in even more to know Christ and the power of His resurrection? If you do not have a burning passion for Christ, and a burning desire to become like Him, doing the same works He did, you have missed the heart of Christianity.
Once you have this desire you must get something more then watered down teaching from the seeker friendly pastor’s of the world. You will never grow beyond the one who is discipling you as Jesus said, you will become like them. If you are under a pastor who does not teach about these things, and has himself never experienced these things, how do you expect to do them? You must find someone who has and is doing the works Jesus did, and then you must be willing to deny yourself.
This is the next part of the process that Jesus said was necessary to become His disciple. This is not easy, and something that will be a constant choice as a believer in Christ. Even Jesus Himself dealt with this in the Garden of Gethsemane. That is where Jesus denied self, and gave us an example to follow. In that Garden He prayed for three hours crying out to the Father asking if there were some other way to accomplish what needed to be done, but He finished with a powerful statement. “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.”
Jesus did not get His will while here on earth. If He didn’t get His will, why should we get ours? To deny self you must be willing to give up what you think about life and what you want in life to chase after what God desires for you. You will never deny self if you do not have the desire to become like Him. This is where many miss it. They may try to deny self, but they fail because deep down they still desire to get things their way instead of God’s way. Take a look at every great man and women of God throughout history and you will find someone who gave up getting things their way. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s ways are only walked out by faith, and that is going to challenge how you think and what you see. But walking by faith is exactly how the just are to be living their life each and every day.
Last but not least as Matthew 16:24 tells us we are to then take up our cross and follow Jesus. Taking up our cross does not mean to die to self, for that is what one does when they deny self. Years ago the Lord helped me to see what taking up our cross refers to. Jesus denied self in the Garden during those three hours of prayer. Going to the cross was the very reason He was born, and that represented Him fulfilling the Father’s will for His life. To take up our cross means we are to fulfill God’s will for our lives.
This would clearly include whatever God has gifted us to do in this life, but it also includes doing the work Jesus did, for as we stated earlier that is why Jesus gave the church the Great Commission. God is wanting every born again believer to be doing the same works as His Son. He wants to use us in our place of work or business, in the market place where we buy things, and wherever we go. Jesus did not die for us to just attend church and never do what He did.
My hope in writing this article is to inspire you to first and foremost make sure your desire is to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as one of His disciples. Secondly to realize that anyone who has that desire and learns to deny self, put their complete confidence in Jesus trusting in what He said, that they will see Him do these same works through them. The heart of Christianity is to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, seeing the same power and authority working through us to change the lives of others.
See You Again Next Week For More “Weekly Wisdom”
May God’s Best Be Yours!
Pastor Darryl Baker