I’m starting a new Sunday morning series this coming Sunday entitled, “Being a Christ-follower. Here is the first part to this two part series.

Luke 9:23

Luke 9:23 ESV – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Phillips – If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross everyday and keep close behind me.

Message – Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all.

INTRO: We are starting a two part series this Sunday entitled, “Being a Christ-follower”. This Sunday our subject is, “What it means to be a Christ-follower.” Next week we will look at the subject, “Christ-followers and Christians.”

As many of you will notice, I’ve started using this term Christ-follower as opposed to Christian. The reason behind this is that the term, “Christian,” has lost it’s meaning over the years. Pretty much every one and anyone can call them selves Christians, no matter their lifestyle. Whereby the term, “Christ-follower,” carries the meaning that Christian originally carried. You see, to be a Christ-follower means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. And quite honestly, in our me-centered society, we’ve totally lost the meaning of the word disciple. Disciple basically means, “student, or one who follows.” That is what God has called us to be, but sadly, many in our churches just don’t do this anymore. They are in church for one reason, “What’s in it for them, or what can they get out of it.” Not the fact that they have been born-again, changed, and become a new creation, a person who follows their master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his early life, the great German sculptor Johann von Dannecker gained a reputation for his statues of Ariadne and the Greek goddesses. Approaching his prime, Dannecker felt he ought to devote all his strength and time to the creation of a masterpiece, so he set about to carve a figure of Christ. Twice he failed before he finally carved a statue so perfect that when people gazed upon it, they were moved to adore the Savior it portrayed. Years later, Napoleon sent for Dannecker and asked him to “make for me a statue of Venus for the Louvre.” Dannecker refused, sending the French emperor this message: “Sir, the hands that carved the Christ can never again carve a heathen goddess.”

Dannecker’s sentiment is admirable, and serves to illustrate the importance of our singular devotion to Christ. That is ultimately what it means to be a Christ-follower – have a singular devotion to Jesus Christ.

Now before we get into this single passage of Scripture let’s look at the context from which it was written. It is written between Peter’s confession of Jesus being the Christ, or the Messiah and the Transfiguration of Jesus. After Peter confessed who Jesus truly was, Jesus told them that He was about to be rejected, by the Jewish authorities and crucified and raised from the dead on the third day. After telling them this, then He tells them the importance of taking up their cross, or laying down their lives as well.

You see, we may not literally have to die physical death for Christ, but we will have to die daily for Him.

Let’s look at this passage this morning.

1. The call to come after Jesus.

v. 23a ESV – If anyone would come after Me…

Phillips – If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps.

You see, following after Jesus is just that, following in His footsteps. It is not the easy-believism that people in our days and times make it out to be. It is counting the cost, do we truly want to be followers of Christ, for His sake, or for our sake.

If it is for our sake, then what difference is it from any other religion or philosophy out there? Sadly, in the body of Christ, there is what I call the self-help heresy. How can we have better families, live in better houses, have a better bank account, have better jobs… The body of Christ has left being Christ’s Church and is now Me Church… all about me, my wants, my desires, my joys, my purposes. This goes against Scripture completely. I like the way the Message translates this here.

v. 23 Message – Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all.

4. Jesus in another passage goes even further.

Luke 14:26-33 ESV – 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Jesus uses a strong word here, “hate.” He is not saying literally to hate them because that would be going against the fifth commandment. He is using hyperbole here. What He is saying is that His follower’s love for Him should be so complete and wholehearted that their love for family members and for life itself would pale in comparison.

This call is to forsake everything about our lives for His life…that is the mark of true discipleship and becoming a true follower of Christ.

Let’s look at exactly what this call entails.

2. We must deny ourselves.

v. 23b ESV – Let him deny himself…

Phillips – He must give up all right to himself…

Imagine you’re the disciples for a moment and hearing this: It would be hard words to hear.

Well, we don’t have to imagine too hard now do we, for these words are still very difficult to hear. You see, it goes against human nature to hear that you have to deny yourself. Our society is all about pleasure in every facet of life. But in God’s Kingdom it is not about pleasure, but about denial of the pleasures of this world. Jesus says this in the next two verses.

Luke 9:24-25 ESV – For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (25) For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

To deny oneself is to put away our own selfish ambition. Self is no longer in charge – God is. In fact, the Message Bible says, “Your not in the drivers-seat, I am.”

3. We must take up our cross daily.

v. 23c ESV – …take up his cross daily…

Phillips – …carry his cross everyday…

Jesus disciples knew exactly what Jesus was referring to here. The cross was the worst form a execution of their day. It was not only torture, but humiliating as well. Jesus was telling them that they have to be willing to die and face whatever came their way, each and everyday.

Following Christ is not a bed of roses. There will be good days, but there will also be days of facing persecution, malice, slander, abuse. Here is a good question to ask yourself; “Do non-believers always treat me with respect, or when I have to take a stand, do I feel persecuted for it.” If you don’t, then you need to ask yourself are you really taking up your cross or not.

4. We must follow the example Jesus left us.

v. 23d ESV – …follow me…

Phillips – …keep close behind Me.

Message – Follow me and I’ll show you how.

Now here is where I have to part ways with the Phillips Translation. Follow me does not mean to follow close behind Jesus, although we should be doing that. It means taking the same road of self-denial and self-sacrifice that Jesus Christ took. Because Jesus was the first to take this road, He is our example and He has gone before us and as we obey and take up our cross and follow Him, He is there to encourage us, guide us, and even fellowship with us as a friend.

CONCL: The way of the Christ-follower is not the broad, straight, and easy way. It is the narrow, rough and curvy way. But it is also the way the Lord would have us to take because it is the way that He walked.

We need to ask ourselves, “Am I willing to do what Christ Jesus wants me to do; to yield my will for Him to mold it, and my life for Him to work through it?” If so, then we must heed His call, deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow after Him.