“Then Jesus told his disciples. ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me for whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.'”
These are words we see over and over and over again in the gospels from Jesus. It’s like the Holy Spirit of God is making crystal clear to us that there is no such thing as casual, comfortable Christianity, cultural Christianity, just kind of following Jesus out of a sense of religious routine. Like no, Jesus over and over and over again in the gospels makes clear that this is not following him. There are all kinds of people, all kinds of crowds who wanted to follow Jesus that way in the first century and all kinds of people in all kinds of crowds who want to follow Jesus that way in the 21st century.
Lord, we plead for help to turn from sin and deny ourselves. Might each day be marked by taking up our cross and following Christ.
And Jesus says, if anyone, this is not just a call to the elite here. This is not just Navy Seal Christianity. This is not just special forces. This is anyone who would follow Jesus. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross. An instrument, like put yourself in the shoes of people who are hearing this in the first century, an instrument of torture. Like we, for right reason today have respect and reverence for the cross. The first century, you didn’t have that. This is an instrument of torture and death for the most vile of criminals, take up his cross and follow me. Deny himself, take up his cross, die to yourself and follow me. Which begs the question, like where are you going? And that’s kind of the point. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, where this leads, you’re following Him.
Like you’re trusting Jesus to lead, to guide your life. There’s no questions asked here. This is laying down your life to follow Jesus. So Jesus, we see this over and over again. So we pray to you now to help us to do this daily. You say in some of these places where we see this in the gospel to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. So today, like right now in prayer, right now, we say, yes. Jesus, we want to turn from all sin. God, please help us to turn from sin and all of its forms and all the ways that we are tempted to send today, help us to turn. Not just sin, but ourselves trusting in ourselves, prioritizing ourselves, living for ourselves, living to please ourselves, to exalt our name, to look this or that way before others, we just turn from it all today.
We want to deny ourselves, take up our cross. We want to die to ourselves. Jesus, we want to follow you. We want to live to please you. We want to live to exalt your name. We want to center around you in all that we do today. We want to proclaim you. We want to make your grace known in the world around us. We want to point other people to you. We want to live in a way that reflects you. We want to follow you. However, wherever you lead us today, give us minds and hearts that are centered around you in every way. Jesus help us to do this daily, to deny ourselves daily, to take up our cross daily, to follow you daily. Moment by moment, Jesus I pray in my own life, just be the center, of all my thoughts and all my desires and all my words and all my actions and all my interactions with others.
Lord, may they all be centered around you and just pray that over my life. And I pray that over each person’s life who’s listening right now, be the center. Help us to turn totally from sin and ourselves to trust totally in you and to follow you today in a way that we draw closer to you and we’re drawn to greater intimacy with you. Jesus I just pray that over every single person who’s listening right now, even as I pray that over my own life, we pray for increasing intimacy with you today, tomorrow. Jesus, we pray this for our good. We know this is best for us not to be trusting in ourselves, living for ourselves. We’ll be trusting in you and living for you. We trust this will be best for others that we might reflect you and share you and make your grace and love known around us. And we trust that this will be most glorifying to you. So help us to follow you as you call us to follow you with everything we have. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.