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16 June, 2013

Follow Me ─Why Do So Many Give Up? ─ Part two

"If anyone would come after Me, he must
deny himself and take up his cross daily
and follow Me." Luke 9:23

A lot of us tend to look at this verse and conclude that it is mainly about the missionaries in the field and about sharing the gospel.  What’s wrong with our view of discipleship is that we equate discipleship mostly with work. But, being a disciple simply means you are a learner and you are learning from Him. We must learn self-denial, waiting, patience, surrender, abide, complete obedience, humility and endure trials, etc, all the while, we are to cultivate a contempt for the world. There is no question that without the inward work done for us by the indwelling Spirit, the workers get easily discouraged and often give up because they are working out of their own self-interests and are unable to renew their strength in Him. 

So, as we focus on discipleship, if all we see is the outward work that can be done FOR God then, there is a strong chance that we have not learned to give up self interest yet. Because, as we learn to die to self, we learn to also get to know ourselves and we have a better understanding of the Holy Spirit’s challenge in making us His true disciples. The point is, Christ had so much more in mind when He told us to come after Him or to become His disciple. If we do not let the Holy Spirit influence the way we live out this life and it make sense that we get stuck and discourage and quit the process.

Christ has given us so much to ponder in verse 23. First we are to count the cost of our decision, second we are to learn to deny self, third we are to take up the cross He put in front of us” (not our own man made idea of what the cross should be) then we follow. Christ wanted to make sure those following Him understand what He was offering. By saying they needed to take up the cross and denied self, He was indeed saying, while at first this life might seems exciting because of the miracles, the word that seemed out of this world, and the power etc, but it would take more than mere curiosity or enthusiasm based on our own self-interests, to truly follow after Him.

Let’s think about it for a moment, any true Christian has one goal which is to follow Christ wherever He leads and where He is leading is none other than His Kingdom of course. A true Christian knows you cannot take your own navigation tools and decide you know a better way. God has never changed and He still wants us to do things, His way and it is only in learning things His ways that we can succeed. Most of the time, His way will not be the easiest one. For instance we see Him taking the Israelites by the longest route. In reality, He could have taken the Israelites by a different route and they would have gotten in the Promised Land in a few days. But that was not His plan and He had a good reason for it too. He needed them to learn to know Him and learn the art of fighting.  

What happened to the Israelites in the wilderness? First their enthusiasm gave in, then, resentment and disobedience set in. What was the result of it all? They were fascinated by the life of Egypt. In the Bible, Egypt represents sin and the world and even though they could not go back to Egypt in person, but God could never have their minds and hearts. Right until the end, in Jeremiah's book you can see the Israelites have never been able to give God their undivided attention, and truly consecrated their hearts to Him.
Personally I found when you count the cost of Christianity; the next step is the willingness to die to self. The biggest shock to my system was when one day it dawned on me that Christianity was not like that social club I thought it was. Then I thought to myself why is it this person told me at the beginning that I have nothing to do and I belong to the group going to heaven? Why is it the Bible shows there is much more to it? Even though I did not understand what that much more meant I knew I was lied to and the person who lied to me did not do it on purpose either. He simply never learned to count the cost, or learned to die to self.  Then I began to study the Bible just so that I could see what were asked of me, should I decide to follow. This is when I got upset and stopped making notes from my findings. It felt as if God was dangling something unattainable in front of me. I actually accused Him of being unjust. The only response I got from Him was: “well, surrender to me” That too was a few months of agony to get there.

Later on, I found out, He is the architect and He is the only one who possesses the plan as to what the building is going to look like when it is finished. As workers, all we can do is, to do as we are told and true Christian workers take their leads from the Holy Spirit directly. When we have not learned to count the cost and be led by the indwelling Spirit,   we go around saying that we are Christians, yet we have no idea why other people are making our lives miserable with stuff like higher life, dying to self etc. That is because we convinced ourselves the outward work and appearance are good enough and we have no solid foundation.  

 As for denying the self, books have been written about it but it is a life where you are aware that you are dying slowly as Christ is taking over more and more. (He must increase, I must decrease) My point here is to show you first off, the work that is involved in following after Him is actually harder than being a missionary overseas, or going abroad preaching the gospel. The real work is the inward work we are called to let the indwelling Spirit do with us in order to get us where Christ intended for us to be. The more we keep insisting on doing things our way, we only set ourselves up for disappointment.