Summary: Self-Denial, Cross-bearing and Obedience are the central elements of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
In verse 26 Jesus says that this commitment level applies to "anyone who comes to me. . ." In other words, Jesus is not speaking exclusively to a special group of Christians such as apostles, evangelists, missionaries, pastors, or even mature believers. He is saying that this principle applies to everyone who would be one of his followers.
Jesus goes on to say, "Anyone who comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters,-yes, even his own life cannot be my disciple." Now the word "hate" here is not meant to be taken literally but is rather used figuratively to express a point. It is hyperbole or exaggeration similar to what we use when we say, "That man was as big as a house. . ." In Jewish culture the word "hate" was used to express lesser love, so Jesus is saying that we must love him much more that we love our closest family relationships or even our own lives. We must love him more than our hobbies, more than our goals in life, more than our careers, and more that our self interest.
Jesus is not speaking of our emotional feelings toward him or our families but rather he is speaking of our level of commitment. He is saying that our commitment to obey and following him must be greater than any other commitment in our lives. In other words, Jesus must be first in our priorities and loyalties. Is this true in your life?
For instance, if following Jesus obediently results in problems or interferes with your closest relationships, will you still follow him? This is no mere hypothetical situation. In other countries following Jesus can sometimes mean being kicked out of the family, losing your children, etc. In our own country, many relationships have encountered problems because one spouse was a committed Christian and the other was not. In such cases Jesus wants us to know up front what it means to be a disciple. He must come before even your closest relationships.
I. To be a disciple of Jesus you must be committed to him above everything else
We must not only love or be committed to Jesus more than to our loved ones, but we must also be committed to him above "even our own lives" as Jesus says in verse 26. This refers to our physical lives which we must be willing to surrender for Jesus’ sake. It also refers to are self lives, which means our personal desires, goals, interests, and even needs. We must be committed to Jesus above our bank accounts, our public image, our jobs, every personal desire, etc. If following Jesus means forfeiting these things, then we must be willing to do that. Again this is not a hypothetical situation. Following Jesus will many times mean making such sacrifices.
How would you characterise your relationship with God? Is he a concept, a comfort or a conviction? Is he someone that you have yet to come to grips with, someone who says to you that you are fine the way you are, or someone who says that if you want to think of yourself as a Christian and all that it entails, this demands radical sacrifice and self denial.