Read this even if you’re not a Christian. How can you reject something until you understand it?
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” – Luke 9:23, 24
“Christian” was a term coined to describe followers of Christ (or disciples of Christ, if you will). Here Jesus tells us what we must do to be his followers.
The word is Strong’s G533 “aparneomai“. It means “to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests”. Basically, come to terms with the fact that you are not the most important thing in the world.
Take Up Your Cross
The word for cross is Strong’s G4716, “stauros“. It is defined as “a well known instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment, borrowed by the Greeks and Romans from the Phoenicians; to it were affixed among the Romans, down to the time of Constantine the Great, the guiltiest criminals, particularly the basest slaves, robbers, the authors and abetters of insurrections, and occasionally in the provinces, at the arbitrary pleasure of the governors, upright and peaceable men also, and even Roman citizens themselves.”
When one carried their cross, they weren’t carrying a heavy burden towards a destination at which point they would be relieved on it. They were carrying the instrument of their own torture and death. They carried the cross till they reached their destination and then they died on it.
After forgetting ourselves and taking up our cross, we join Christ on the road to our deaths. We are following his lead and doing as he commands, because that is what it means to be a disciple. That is what it means to be a Christian. We are not discouraged that he calls us to our deaths because we trust him when he says that those who lose their lives for his sake will find it.
Note what being a christian takes:
1. Belief: You must belief that Jesus is who he says he is and that he has the power to save us as he claims or you would be the greatest of fools to follow him to death.
2. Action: You don’t just believe Jesus and then sit on your butt waiting for eternal life. You follow him. Too often people are told that they must believe in Jesus in order to be saved (and they must) and then they get the impression that after believing in Jesus, they can do whatever they like and still be his disciple. You’re not a disciple if you’re not following. You follow by doing as he says, not by continuing in the sins you’re supposedly saved from.
This is the relationship between faith and works. We are saved by God’s grace, through our faith in Jesus. Without trusting Jesus’ sacrifice, we are still dead in our sins and none of our good works will revive us. But faith without works will get us nowhere.
You accept the gift of atonement and reconciliation that Jesus offers us because you don’t get forgiveness of sins any other way. Without that, do good as you may, you still go to jail for the wrong that you’ve done. (Romans 5: 9-11, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
You get up and follow Jesus, turning away from your sins to obey his laws. Otherwise, how could he atone for someone who wants to keep on sinning? How could he teach you to live if you have no intention of doing so?
John summarizes the gospel:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. – John 3: 16 – 21