Matthew 16:24, “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.’”
After calling people to come and follow Him Jesus in the above verse gives the basic criteria of being His disciple. The word disciple was not just a term that Jesus used to describe His followers, but rather it was a popular term in Jesus’ day to describe any kind of student studying under a teacher.
The word disciple, “mathetes” in Greek, simply means, “a student or pupil of a teacher.” Just like in modern times when a person joins a mentoring program for their job, a college class, or a martial arts dojo the student is first asked to agree to the requirements of the course given by the teacher, the same was true with Jesus and His followers.
Jesus’ three main criteria of being one of His students was; (1) to deny one’s self, (2) take up one’s own cross, and lastly, (3) follow Jesus in all His ways. If a person could agree to these requirements Jesus would then consider them one of His students or disciples.
The first criterion Jesus gives is to “deny one’s self.” To deny yourself means to no longer rely upon your own abilities and human effort to guide and save your life. This was Jesus’ way of teaching His students to no longer depend on their mental intellect, good works, or even religious beliefs for salvation and daily guidance but to rather trust in God. A popular way of saying this today would be, “let go and let God.”
Ofcourse, Jesus didn’t want His students to “turn off their brain” and lay helpless on the floor because they denied their own ability to even sit, stand, or walk and were to wait for God to move them like a puppet. However, Jesus was referring to the principle He had taught in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Therefore, the first step to being a disciple of Jesus is to honestly realize your spiritual poverty and put your faith in Jesus for the true riches of heaven. In other words, “I deny my efforts to save myself, but I believe Jesus can fully save me.”
- Think of 2-3 ways you have tried to save or guide your own life.
- Ask God to help you deny your impulses to guide your life.
- Trust Jesus to save and guide you everyday!