Word By Mail

Being a Christ Follower

Mark 8:34-38

This devotion and 3-minute video come from a message of the same title.

Have you ever wondered what it truly means to be a Christ-Follower? When Jesus says in Mark 8:34, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me, what does he mean? 

Give Up Your Own Way

First, he says you MUST give up your own way. One definition for the Greek word used here is, “reject any connection with self.”

This is not “denying self,” as in giving up some sin. This is “Giving up our own way of life.” It’s giving up our “right” to decide what we are going to do, where we are going to go, and how our life is going to look. We must give it up – we are not in control anymore – Jesus is in control.

We surrender our own way, and our own desires, and instead, we take up the way and desires of the Lord Jesus, that's what this means.

Take Up Your Cross

Then, Jesus says (Mark 8:34), you MUST take up your cross. To the first Disciples, the cross depicted only one thing; it was the most humiliating form of death the Romans could devise. And those who died on the cross always carried their own cross.

To be “carrying your own cross” meant you were a dead man walking.

Today, “taking up our cross” will probably not mean physical death on a physical cross. However, something has to die on the cross; it’s the only purpose for the cross. For us, as Christ-followers, the cross must symbolize the humiliation, breaking, and death of our self-centered life and our pride. It is often uglier, and more painful, than our physical death would be. And Luke 9:23 says we must do this DAILY!

Do you get the idea that self is in the way of being a Christ-follower? Indeed, this is exactly what Jesus is saying. But, withthe power of the Holy Spirit inside us, first we can "give up our own way," then we can begin to “crucify our own way." Then, there's just one step left . . . 

Obedience

Finishing Mark 8:34, Jesus says, and then, finally, follow me. We could add the word “actually” here, as in “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must (actually) follow me. Praying the “prayer of salvation” is critically important, AS an initial commitment; but it is not the end goal of following Jesus.

To actually follow Jesus means – you obey him. It means you genuinely make decisions in your life according to God’s Word, above and in place of your own opinion. Jesus didn’t sugar-coat it – this is what we must do to truly follow Jesus.

Motivation and Warning

In Mark 8:35, Jesus goes on to say if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. However, by genuinely surrendering your life to Jesus as your Lord and giving up your self-life for his sake and the Kingdom of God, you will gain abundant life now (the peace of God), and eternal life when this life ends.

Jesus asks two critical questions in Mark 8:36-37, which address the real motivation to be a Christ-follower. Whatever you view as “gaining the whole world” in this life could all end in a flash before the sun comes up tomorrow, and so, Jesus says, Is anything in this life worth more than your soul?

Finally, we see a clear warning from Jesus in Mark 8:38. To be ashamed of Jesus means: you don’t want people to know that you are associated with him. Maybe someone convinced you to pray the prayer of faith for salvation. But maybe you were hoping to kind of "keep it to yourself," maybe you didn't want your friends to think you had gotten 'religious.'

This is how Jesus addresses that situation, "... If anyone is ashamed of me and my message . . . the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The Reward

Jesus has new, abundant, and eternal life to give freely to his followers, and this new life is received by faith alone. Becoming a Christ-follower is not a work that earns you salvation. Becoming a Christ-follower is the response to knowing that you are saved. 

If you follow these instructions from Jesus, the reward will be abundant life now and eternal life in heaven, living in the glory of the Lord. Embrace the offer of Jesus to lose this vapor of a life for his sake in order to gain abundant life now and eternal life in heaven.