"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" Luke 9:23 (NIV).
There is nothing easy about taking that step across the line and following Jesus where he leads. Because, before we go anywhere else, Jesus leads us to sacrifice. We must sacrifice our dreams, our expectations, our desires. We must sacrifice our time and our resources. We must daily look at Jesus and choose his way instead of our own.
Tonight I sat with a friend who is struggling to follow Jesus into a sacrifice of unconditional love. She knows that that is her calling, but those first steps are always the hardest. There's so much risk that's involved. If I sacrifice all those things, will I get anything in return? Jesus promises reward and inheritance of the kingdom--but will those things be worth what they have cost me? And what will it cost me in my deepest soul to give the things he is asking me?
This week I also had the opportunity to forgive the debt of some clients. They owed me money and I really sensed God leading me to let it go so that the message that he is a God of justice and compassion would be experienced by them and another attorney. And in those moments when I struggled to let that money go, I thought of the things I might like to do with the money--the home-repair projects and the comfort-inducing things I might buy. Even the charities I might like to give a percentage to.
But in the end, it always goes back to this. Do I love Jesus more than I love myself? Do I want to see his kingdom carve new paths as the water of life flows out of these sacrifices? Do I want people to meet the Jesus that I know and follow? Do I really want to bring him to my place of work and my home?
Each of us will have to answer these questions in life time and time again. This denial of self for the sake of Jesus--it happens daily. But it really is an invitation rather than a command. Because what comes after the sacrifice is amazing. Nothing compares to seeing God transform your very heart as you walk in faith in the direction he leads. And nothing compares to seeing other people coming to know Jesus.
As you walk with Jesus, how has he invited you to take up your cross and follow him? What have you seen him do in response? And what is he asking you to deny right now for the sake of the kingdom?