“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
“Who wants go to heaven some day?” asked Miss Wilson of her preschoolers. Every hand went up and she beamed with joy at her class of 30 “converts.” Bill got the same results at the county jail when he asked if any of the incarcerated men were “Christians.” Nine out of ten nodded. Likewise, teenagers smoking pot behind the gym laughed through a smoky haze about the times they “got saved” at youth camp, VBS, or when a friend forced them down the aisle at church. We’ve come to accept such claims as valid, but do those situations sound anything like Jesus’ definition of following Him?
Nowhere in scripture do we find commands to “ask Jesus into your heart,” “pray this prayer after me,” or “accept Christ.” Those phrases are attempts to explain the spiritual transaction that must take place in order to begin a relationship with God. Jesus called it being “born again” (John 3:3). But we have substituted the idea that “Christian” means checking the right boxes on a heavenly survey. However, Jesus was startlingly clear about what it means to know Him. He doesn’t take the back seat. He doesn’t offer to be “part” of our lives. Unless He is first in our lives, we are not His followers. If we won’t choose Him over everyone and everything, we are not worthy of Him (Matt. 10:37-38). Taking up our cross means we are willing to die to everything that displeases Him. When we do, we find more than an escape from Hell. We find that He is all we were looking for.