Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24).
In 1957, Mickey Cohen, the most powerful mobster in Los Angeles, attended a Billy Graham Crusade. Cohen announced that he had become a Christian. He began attending church and preparing for baptism.
But within a few months, it was clear that Mickey had not abandoned his old career: a mobster controlling the gambling, prostitution, and protection rackets in Los Angeles. When his pastor confronted him, Mickey Cohen said, “Preacher, you never told me I had to give up my career. There are Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians. What’s wrong with being a Christian gangster? If I must give that up, count me out.” Mickey Cohen claimed to be a Christian, but he did not want to pay the price of discipleship.
Jesus said that a true disciple must take up a cross and follow him. You cannot be a Christian without answering Jesus’ call to discipleship.
What does it mean to be a disciple?
A disciple has placed his faith in Jesus for salvation. He does not rely on good works or church membership. He has repented of his sins and trusted in Christ alone for salvation.
A disciple is living in daily obedience to Jesus. Discipleship is not a one-time decision. It is a daily life of obedience and surrender. It means dying to your own sovereignty and submitting to Jesus’ authority.
In the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria, a person who willing to die for the Oba, the chief of the tribe is called an abobaku. Are you an abobaku? Have you taken up your cross to follow Jesus? Are you ready to die with Him? That is what it means to be a disciple.
A disciple is becoming more and more like Jesus. Through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, a disciple shows increasing similarities to his Master. Day by day, he learns to respond to situations in a Christlike manner. Day by day, he becomes more like Jesus.
Jesus, you have called me to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you. At moments of great emotion, it is easy to make this commitment. But in the day-to-day journey of discipleship, it is a challenge. A cross is painful! But I want to be your disciple. So today I renew my commitment to follow you step by step. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, please continue transforming me into your image day by day.
To read more about Jesus’ call to discipleship, read Lesson 16 (“Real Disciples”) in the Shepherds Global Classroom course, Biblical Evangelism and Discipleship.