Following the Leader ∙
If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. – Luke 9:23
23 And He was saying to them all, if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.
25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
In martial arts, students create a bond with their sensei, master-teacher. They commit to a life of emulating their sensei. Their sensei teaches them skills but also gives them opportunities to use them and teach others. Eventually, they rely on their own abilities and skills. Martial arts requires the apprentice to fall seven times and stand up eight.
Spiritual leaders have a special presence about them. They project self-confidence, the ability to take control of difficult, unpredictable situations, and make tough decisions as needed to carry out the Father’s will. They have learned how to rely on the Father to energize their abilities and gifts to serve His purpose. They walk in dependence upon Him.
Spiritual sensei place emphasis on the next generation. They wish to work themselves out of a job and develop new leaders that will follow after them. The Lord Jesus Christ modeled this. The apostle Paul followed in His footsteps and trained Timothy. Timothy was tasked to do the same for others.
2 Timothy 2:2 What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
After we become children of the King through faith, each one of us is implored to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
The path of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of self-denial and suffering. It is not easy but difficult. But anyone can do it. Each child of the King is invited to put aside selfish desires and serve others instead of ourselves. Disciples bear burdens and responsibilities that non-disciples did not. Discipleship is not something that can be audited. It is hands-on dedicated effort and practice of knowledge and skills acquired.
Walking closely with the Father is humbling, yet it provides the greatest of all rewards on planet Earth.
The Lord Jesus Christ laid out three conditions for following Him and becoming His disciple. The first is to deny oneself. To deny oneself is ceasing to live a life based on self-interest and self-fulfillment. Disciples practice radical self-denial. A disciple is to seek to live out the example and the teaching of his Master-Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is quite similar to training in martial arts. An apprentice takes on the characteristics, affectation of his leader including focus, discipline, confidence, self-control, goals, humility, etc.
The second condition involves taking up one’s cross. In the Roman world, criminals were forced to drag themselves to crucifixion carrying the crossbeam of their own cross. When the Lord Jesus Christ requires that His disciples take up their cross, He is not referring to physical crucifixion. Instead, carrying one’s cross is a metaphor. It signifies “that one is to live on a daily basis as though one had been sentenced to death by crucifixion” (Green). For disciples, to take up the cross was to live as though they were already dead. That is, did to the world and all that it offers, but alive unto the Father and all that He desires.
The third condition involves frequency. They are to bear their cross continuously day by day. The Father sets the pace and we follow Him “a step at a time, a day at a time” (Wiersbe). Each day, disciples lay aside their own agenda and instead take on the spiritual tasks which the Father has assigned to them from His master plan.
How different modern culture is from New Testament times. What a paradigm shift. “In the Roman world, the cross was a symbol of shame, guilt, suffering, and rejection. There could be no more despicable way to die. Crucifixion was not mentioned in polite conversation, and the people would no more think of wearing crosses on their person than we would think of wearing gold or silver electric chairs” (Wiersbe). Yet crosses have become jewelry that identifies the wearer with the Lord Jesus Christ.
REFLECT & PRAY
Great leaders face obstacles, overcome them and keep on moving forward. They are humble and transparent. They readily admit their weaknesses, shortcomings, and poor decisions. Such self-awareness is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Father encourage me to stay outside of my comfort zone and be willing to risk and follow the agenda that You have set for the remainder of my life.
The Father is always looking for children of the King that are willing to get outside their comfort zone, take risks, and stand in the gap for Him.
Ezekiel 22:30 I searched for who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me.
In the days of Ezekiel, the Father could find no one who would take the lead and stand in the gap for Him through spiritual leadership and intercession. There was no one with the moral courage to be His conduit and stem the downward trends, and lead Judah to repentance and a walk of faith.
The Hebrew word translated gap or breach as perets. Perets connotes a bursting forth, an opening, a breach, a gap, especially in the wall or fortification.
The Father was seeking someone who would be like a warrior standing in the gap, a broken-down area of a wall to defend the breach. The tragedy is that the Father could not find one person who was willing, able, and available to do so.
For the last 2000 years, the Lord Jesus Christ has been looking for children of the King who were willing to stand in the gap with Him, and become disciples. Being a disciple, an apprentice, a future leader in training is no easy task. They must choose to live for the Father’s sake, rather than their own. They choose to serve others rather than themselves
Becoming a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ requires that one deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. There is no way to sugarcoat it. The consequence of such a decision requires self-denial, sacrifice, loss, perhaps shame, and even martyrdom. Disciples forsake their ambitions and desires to fulfill the Father’s will.
The Japanese word sensei is literally translated as “one who comes before.” Disciples go where no one except their master-teachers have gone before. There is no prospect for release in this life (Constable).
“A disciple is one who knows God personally, and who learns from Jesus Christ, who most perfectly revealed God. One word stands out from all others as the key to knowing God, to having his peace and assurance in your heart; it is obedience” (Eric Liddell).