Following Jesus in A New Year
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
Peter has just declared that Jesus was “The Christ of God.” Jesus tells them to “tell no man” and that He would suffer many things. Peter and the other disciples did not really understand the suffering of Christ until after His death and resurrection. The next part of this narrative directs us to this verse: “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.”
Self denial is one of the most difficult things to do as human beings. Recently, our family was treated to a terrific Chinese Buffet. Walk into a Chinese buffet or similar “all you can eat” restaurant and you will see that many Americans struggle with denying self. Denial issues could relate to eating, exercise, music, the friends we have, time in front of a screen, and nearly every area of life. Even things that are not necessarily a sin of themselves can become sin to us when we do not practice moderation and the discipline of self denial.
Taking up the cross includes suffering for Jesus. Some people at work or at school will not love Jesus like you do. Some will persecute you. You may be passed over. The neighbors may not be as kind to you. You may have people threaten you or mock you. Take up this cross, letting others know you are a Christian, no matter what suffering you may encounter. This is to be done daily.
Then Jesus says: “Follow Me.” “Deny self, take up cross,” and “follow me” are great places to begin a new year. Here are a few suggestions to help you follow Christ.
- Decisions are about Jesus. A new year’s resolution? Read the Bible in a year? Handout a Gospel tract each week? Accept a new job? Relocate? Become engaged? Get married? What about other spiritual decisions such as confessing sin? Going to the altar during the altar call and making a decision for Christ? How about service in the through the local church? Will you serve in areas you like most or areas that are needed the most? Make all your decisions about Jesus.
- Discussions are about Jesus. What will be the topic of our conversations? Will you boast, exude pride about self? Will you speak of personal selfishness? Will you talk about the Lord to others? Will you say how good God has been to you? Could you tell someone about Jesus and His gift of eternal life in this new year? Avoid talking negatively about your local church, pastor, Sunday School teacher or other Christian. They are not perfect, and for that matter neither are you. We are to talk to others about Jesus and talk to the Lord about our “problems.” Be sure to tell people about Christ while at the same time speaking well of His bride – the church. The lost will pick up on dissension in your speaking about other Christians and it will turn them away. Be careful of the words you say and how you say them. If it would be improper to say something in a press conference in prime-time, it would be wrong anytime. Discussing the Lord will help you choose proper words because of the proper topic being Christ.
- Dedications are about Jesus. To Whom or to What will you be dedicated to? “Me, myself, and I” is very shallow and humanistic. The “world, the flesh, and the devil”, are other choices for the dedication of your heart, but will leave you in sin leave your heart heartbroken and enslaved to sin. “Money, fame, and getting ahead” are insufficient to bring you true peace and lasting joy. “Following Jesus” is all that really matters. Be dedicated to following the Lord in every area of your life.
Whether the dedication of your heart, the discussion of your mouth, or the decisions of your mind, let’s determine to be followers of Jesus Christ this year. Deny self, carry your cross, and follow Jesus.