The ‘tag’ Christian gets bundled around a lot. Our country’s 2010 population census recorded an astonishing figure of 71% Christians. An impressive result, that is, if you believe it. I don’t. Why? Because there are many who identify as Christians based on a number of false notions like growing up in a Christian home, been a church member, living a moral life and many others.
Now, to be a Christian is to be a follower or disciple of Christ which requires that certain things are true of you. Following Christ is not an empty profession of faith. But a life lived in response to the work of grace in a sinners heart. Jesus, in a conversation with His disciples, and by extension us, lays out certain facts true of a Christian—a follower of Christ:
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).
Christ begins His words with a conditional clause: “If anyone would come after me…” Following Christ is a personal decision each individual must make. There must be a personal decision to place our trust in Christ for the salvation of our souls (John 1:12-13, 3:16). When Christ calls, we must respond individually. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7).
Next, Christ calls for self-denial. Following Christ is not a self-aggrandizement trip. Many believers after they are saved are still basking in the self-movement—self-confidence and self-esteem. The call to follow Christ is a lifetime commitment of self-denial to Christ centeredness. As was said of Moses, he chose “…rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26).
Many people have a distorted view of Christianity. They see the Christian life as an alternative lifestyle to self-improvement, wealth and health. Christ taught otherwise: “…take up [your] cross and follow me”. Becoming a disciple of Christ is not to be miscontrued for a comfortable life because it is not. It is indeed a lifetime commitment and anyone who wants to follow Christ must carefully ponder the decision.
The cross is a symbol of suffering and each one of us who follow Jesus will have to bear our own cross just as Christ bore His and follow Him. The imagery of the cross, needs to produce in us a sober reflection of the cost of following Christ.
Have you counted the cost of following Christ? If you haven’t, do.
But I have let myself to another, even to the King of princes; and how can I, with fairness, go back with thee?… I have given Him my faith, and sworn my allegiance to Him; how, then, can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor? — Christian to Apollyon, The Pilgrim’s Progress