Summary: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” Mat. 16:24-25.
Theme: Take up your cross daily and follow Christ
Text: Jer. 20:7-9; Rom. 12:1-2; Mat. 16:21-27
An important question we all need to ask ourselves is how a person becomes a Christian and what is expected of Christians? Peter confessed Jesus to be the Son of God but did not behave as if he believed it and this is the behaviour of many people today. How can we sincerely say that Jesus is God who created everything by His spoken word and not believe what He says? It is because as Christians we are also expected to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus Christ. We need to make Christ our priority and be willing to give up everything for His sake. Unfortunately many ‘Christians’ have other priorities even after confessing Jesus Christ to be their Saviour and Lord. Can this not be the reason why many of them feel frustrated and defeated even though they read the Bible, pray and witness for Christ? We can only experience victory in our lives when Christ becomes our priority and our desire is focused on fulfilling God’s Will no matter the cost. Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, after confessing Christ as the Son of the Living God, shifted his priority from Christ to himself. He refused to believe the words of Christ that He would suffer and be killed and be raised the third day. He even rebuked Christ telling his Lord that He did not know what He was talking about, thereby implying that he knew more than God did. This sounds just like the way we often behave. We come to Christ accepting Him as Lord and then refusing to trust Him with our lives or believe His words. We chose to rely on ourselves rather than on Christ or what He says. We would rather do what we want than to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him.
Doing what we want or following our self-will often leads to misplaced concern as happened in the case of Peter. To correct Peter’s misplaced concern, Jesus turns to face him and then says, “Get behind me Satan.” Here Jesus refers to Peter as the devil, using the same words He used when He confronted the devil in the wilderness. This is not surprising since the devils message at that time was that there was no need for Christ to die and Peter was here repeating that same message. While Christ always remained focused only on God Peter here focused on himself and was motivated by his own desires. When Peter focused on his own desires rather than on the will of God, he became a stumbling block to God. Although Peter was speaking out of genuine concern and love for the Lord, what he said was contrary to the will of God. He was actually working against God - working in league with the devil to prevent Christ from fulfilling His mission. God wants our decisions to be based on His will and not on our own desires and emotions. When we live by our feelings and these are not in accordance with the Word of God, we end up supporting the kingdom of darkness. When Peter based his decision on his emotions rather than the Word of God, he was simply joining forces with the enemy. What God wants is far more important than what we feel and we should be willing to serve and be inconvenienced for the sake of God.
To follow Christ is to walk in His footsteps and grow up to become like Him. We cannot grow without first being born and to be able to grow and become like Christ we first need to be born spiritually. We need to be born again; we need to be first sanctified. It is only after being cleansed that we can be filled with the Holy Spirit who enables us to develop Christ-like qualities and bear the fruit of the Spirit. Acknowledging the Lordship of Christ is the beginning of an intimate relationship with Him. It is not following a set of laws or a set of beliefs; it is not following our thoughts or our emotions; it is having a relationship with Christ. This relationship is to become deeper and should be characterised and evidenced by growth. As with every relationship there will be times when we will get bored or tired and ask ourselves whether what we are doing is worthwhile. Many of us began our relationship with Christ with great devotion but is it the same today? Are we still enjoying our relationship with Christ? Are our decisions still based on pleasing Christ? Whether we like it or not every decision we make in life either promotes the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. There are no neutral decisions in life. You are either on God’s side or on the side of the devil. The Scriptures teach us that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” “Therefore, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.”