One of the demands that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus, has set to His disciples, and to those who would want to become His disciples, is to follow Him. He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and FOLLOW ME” (Matt. 16:24).
What does following Christ mean? Among others, it means to learn from, to trust in, and to imitate Him. It means to imitate Him in His obedience to and in glorifying the Father. And that whatever trials may lie in our way, to continue following Him as His disciple.
Practically, what’s involved in following Christ? Well, it entails following after His desires for one thing. To care about His agenda. To be concerned about His causes and His kingdom.
The Lord Jesus is looking for disciples who are ready to acknowledge that His concerns, His cause, His agenda is not only right, but also right for their lives.
True disciples are ready to put everything else second to Christ and His agenda and follow after Him. Because in doing so, disciples are going to be caught up in something much bigger than themselves.
In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus also said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate…even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”
This is at the very heart of Christian discipleship. Jesus is not saying to His disciples, “I will save you because you deny yourselves.” He is not saying, “I love you because you’ve denied yourselves.” He’s saying, “Because I’ve set my heart on you, because I’ve offered my life for you, now deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Me.”
Listen to what commentator William Hendriksen has said: “One follows Christ by trusting in Him, walking in His footsteps, obeying His commandments out of gratitude for salvation through Him, and being willing even to suffer in His cause.”
Jesus is not talking about earning salvation through self-denial or imitating His sacrifice. Rather, He is talking about showing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts by grace in a life of faith, repentance, and holiness.
This charge to discipleship is for everyone who has pledge loyalty to the One who loved us, and continues to love us, and has freed us from our sins by His precious blood.
True Christians are imitators of Christ in His faithfulness, obedience, and gratefulness to the Father who has accepted us into His family by grace through faith in His beloved Son.
Vic Bernales is an ordained minister in the Pearl of the Orient Covenant Reformed Church. He pastors the Davao Covenant Reformed Church in Davao City, Philippines. He earned his Master of Divinity at Mid-America Reformed Seminary at Dyer, Indiana, U.S.A.