What does it mean to follow Christ?
When Jesus was preaching, he would always invite people to follow him. For example, if we read in Luke 9:23 it says, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” So, what did Jesus mean when he invited those people to follow him? It’s important to analyze the different parts of this invitation, so that we may understand the magnitude of the decision to follow Christ.
First of all, Jesus began with: “If anyone desires to come after me…” As we analyze this first component, we can clearly see that Christ taught that the decision to follow him is a personal choice. It’s an individual decision, so no one can force anyone to follow him. This commitment is not even based on what family may believe or has believed for generations. The decision must be analyzed by every believer for themselves. If we look at history, we read about millions of people that lived in this hemisphere alone, who were forced to convert to “Christianity.” However, that was never the way that Jesus taught, because following Christ can only happen when the individual makes a thoughtful decision on their own.
Secondly, Jesus mentioned that the individuals who want to follow him, must deny themselves. What does it mean to deny oneself? It means that the individual will have a task to set aside their personal thoughts when they are contrary to the teachings of Christ. When my thoughts are one, but the teachings of Christ are another, then I must deny my personal thinking. This is a difficult task because it means perhaps setting aside some personal likes, ideas, opinions, and desires, to accept what it is that Christ desires for us. Although it can be a daring task, in Matthew 26:39, Christ himself showed us an example to follow.
Next, Jesus said, “take up his cross daily…” What does this mean? Was Jesus referring to a literal and physical cross that I must carry with me all day long? No, of course not. The teachings of Christ were far more important than material things. The cross that Jesus was referring to was the suffering that we must carry for his name. For example, in Acts 5:41, the apostles were persecuted, beaten, and threatened to not speak of Jesus. However, the apostles continued onward in their preaching, and they rejoiced in the persecution because they knew the suffering was for his name. Therefore, the cross that Jesus mentioned was not a physical one to carry, but a symbolic one.
Finally, Jesus ended by inviting those courageous people who took the first three steps, to then follow him. But what does it mean to follow him? Did he mean for those people to physically follow him as he preached the gospel around the towns? No, of course not. Again, the teachings of Jesus are far greater than any material thing. Jesus meant that those individuals who follow him, would abide by his teachings. Those who wanted to follow him will practice the teachings of Christ, the doctrine. Today, the followers of Christ must live the teachings daily; all the teachings that were given for the disciples. Even as times are changing, trends are made constantly, and ideas continue to evolve, the followers of Christ must practice the doctrine of Christ.
To finalize, it’s important to understand the significance of following Christ, so that any individual who would make this decision, may do as Jesus taught. Therefore, I would like to extend an invitation to visit a congregation of The Light of the World. There you will learn what God desires for your life and find the way to follow Jesus. If you live in Juneau, we invite you to join us at: 1997 Dunn St. Suite #3. We are open Monday-Saturday at 6:30pm & Sunday at 10 am and 5pm. May the peace of God dwell in your hearts and God bless you all!
• Joab Cano is a missionary for the Light of the World Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.”