Text: “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me”. Luke 9:23.
The word ‘disciple’ is used in the gospels and in Acts of Apostles to refer to the Twelve; the twelve men Jesus selected to follow him, those who he chose, taught and trained personally. Disciple’ is also used in the Bible as a synonym for ‘Christian’. It means ‘follower’ or ‘student’. So when we refer to Christians as disciples, we are identifying them as followers of Christ; student of his life and teachings. The word disciples also carry the idea of imitation; that is those seeking to be like Jesus.
In our text, Luke 9:23 where Jesus said …take up his cross daily and follow me, he was not talking about wearing one’s sandal and be walking or going after him. He was actually referring to becoming his disciple. That is being one of his Students who study his words, actions and life; who imitate him and teach others also to be like him.
Christian discipleship is therefore, becoming like Christ, following his example, listening to his teachings and obeying his command. It is also disciplining others. The command he gave us was to go into the whole world and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19). St. Paul captures this in today’s Epistle, Colossians 1:28 thus: ”whom we preach, warning every man and teaching everyman in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”. The aim of discipleship is for all to be perfect in Christ.
According to our focal passage, the condition Christ gave whoever wishes to be his disciple was to ‘Deny self’. To deny self is not to give room to flesh, not to be dominated or be controlled by it and its wants. It is to place Christ above self. The second condition was to carry his/her cross on daily basis. The cross is here used metaphorically or allegorically to signify the attaining challenges one faces as a Christian i.e. persecution, trials and sufferings (1 Peter 4:1). It is willingness to die for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. These are the cost of Christian discipleship.
We cannot know Christ, deny self or follow him intimately without giving ourselves to the reading of the scripture and praying for the help of the Holy Spirit. It is in the reading of the Bible that we can truly know him. And when we read the scripture, we need to open our hearts to Christ teachings and be obedient to it. In Colossians 3:16 St. Paul says: ”let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God” Christian Discipleship is about living the word and using it to build others up in the faith of Christ.
Beloved, there is the need for every one of us to assess ourselves and check whether we are one of His disciple or not. We may be coming to Church attending Prayer meetings and may not be His disciple. We may be among those who he would say to “depart from me you workers of iniquity. Remember He said also” Not everyone who calls me Lord will enter the kingdom of God”. Are you known by Him? If our hearts convict us, let us make the decision today to be one of his disciples and begin to follow His footsteps.
Very Revd Adewale Adebiyi Ph.D