For the past month, God has been showing me who I am and who He wants me to be. He’s been answering my questions and addressing my doubts. He has shown me what He really thinks about women and women in ministry. He has taught me how to just be still and listen for His voice. It has been an amazing and, at times, difficult journey. As I continue reading through the book of Luke, He is now directing me to pay very close attention to Jesus, what and how he teaches, his relationships, his approach, and his message.
There are many who call themselves Christians, but they look nothing like Christ. The Bible says in Romans 8:29, that God’s goal for every believer is conform us to be like Jesus. If I want to look like Jesus, what do I have to do? Jesus answers this question in Luke 9:23, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” This series of posts will explore each of these steps.
As a former fitness coach, I see a great illustration between a healthy physical life and a healthy spiritual life. Borrowing from that experience, I would like to suggest that the three steps could also be explained as mindset, habit, and lifestyle.
Before you set out to do anything, you have to have the right mindset you need to accomplish it. What you think about controls what you do. You will find many references in Scripture about our mind and thoughts.
If I want to be like Jesus, I have to have a similar mindset.
Philippians 2:5-8 says,
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Jesus, who is God and the only one a rightful claim to anything, denied himself in order to take on the mission that God had for him, that is, dying for us.
What does this mean? I believe clarity can be found in the following verses: ” For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” In North America, especially, “denying self” is extremely difficult. We live in a very “me first” society, and a very affluent one where we worship comfort and demand our rights. Yet Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves”.
As believers, we are called to live counter-culture, yet we have interwoven cultural norms into our Christian worldview so much that it barely resembles anything we see in Scripture. Take for example the culture of American Christianity, which has widely become a combination of worshiping religiosity, patriotism, and the pursuit of the American dream. It actually looks more like the elite religion of Jesus’ day: pride in their origins, claims of moral authority, distaste for the poor, and judgement, instead of compassion, for the lost. I think anyone who has been a believer for a while may have struggled with this at some point. I know I have. We forget where God found us and what He saved us from and how much we ourselves have been forgiven. When we forget the grace we have received, we are unlikely to give it to others.
To deny myself means I need to change my mindset. Romans 12:2 challenges us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. I willingly lay down my dreams, my hopes, my “rights”, my comfort, my things, my time and anything that would distract me or keep me from following after Jesus. You can see this when Jesus calls the twelve. They left everything and followed him. Having this mindset tests and strengthens our faith. I think of the boy with the his small lunch, and how Jesus took what he offered and multiplied it to feed thousands. I think of my own experience of God calling me away from my pursuit of success. It’s not always easy to give up the things you feel that you’ve earned or have a right to, but what God has for us is far more valuable and lasting.
I think Paul sums it up nicely in Philippians 3:17-20:
“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”
What is God asking you to let go of? Do you have the mindset to follow Jesus?