Word of the Week by Justin Breeden – True Discipleship
The Word of the Week – True Discipleship
Matthew 16:24 NASB Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
In Matthew chapter 16, verse 15 Jesus asks His disciples, “…who do you say that I am?” In verse 16 Peter responds, saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus praises Peter’s answer, saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Immediately after this Peter rebukes Jesus (Matthew 16:22) for prophesying of His impending death, burial, and resurrection (Matthew 16:21). Why? Because Jesus’ prophecy was contrary to the vision Peter had of himself holding a position of royal prominence within the earthly kingdom of the Messiah. Peter was not alone in his misunderstanding and selfish attitude – the other disciples were guilty as well (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark. 9:30-37; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-26; John. 6:15).
Jesus uses this opportunity to rebuke Peter (Matthew 16:23) and to further teach His disciples about the meaning of true discipleship within the kingdom of God. In verse 24 Jesus states that anyone wishing to come after Him must:
- 1. Deny himself – A true disciple must deny himself, meaning that he is to submit his own will to the will of God. For the disciples this would mean laying aside their ideas of royal grandeur and embracing the true nature of the kingdom. In the same way, all who call on Christ as Lord are called to radically set aside their own will for their life and embrace the will of God instead. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If God has called you to be a missionary don’t stoop to be a king.”
- 2. Take up his cross – A true disciple must take up his cross, meaning that he identifies himself with the Person, work, and message of Christ. As a result of this identification he will endure affliction, persecution, and perhaps even death as a result.
- 3. Follow Me – A true disciple must follow Christ, a phrase that literal refers to accompanying someone on a journey. In this context, Jesus means that a true disciple will walk the same road of service and suffering that He walked.
Contrary to the royal luxury that the disciples envisioned for themselves, true discipleship would mean setting aside self-will and self-desire, instead embracing the will of God even if it meant adversity, persecution, or death. A true disciple lives by the will of God to the glory of God.
In closing we should note that this would not be something that the disciples could accomplish in their own strength – it would require the power of the Spirit of God – Acts 1:8 NASB … you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you … It is the same for each of us. We are call is to deny self, take up the cross, and follow Christ – yet, without the work of the Spirit of God in our lives we will never be able to live for Christ in the manner described here. Only through the power of the Spirit can we live as true disciples within the kingdom of God.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
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