Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:24
We have unwittingly sanitized what it means to be a Christian. After all, the term “Christian” was first used as a term of mockery. The first century disciples of Jesus talked so much about being just like him that people started calling them “little Christ’s” (translated to Christian) as a curse. First century Christians, serious about being Christ’s disciples, took it as a compliment.
Often our modern version of being a Christian often goes something like this: “Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence.” Or we boil it down to “if you’ll simply confess that you’re a sinner and believe in Jesus, you’ll become a Christian and be saved from the torment of eternal hellfire. Then, you will go to heaven when you die.” In either case, the results are a watered down version of what a disciple of Jesus really is.
A true disciple of Jesus embraces the original meaning of what it meant to be a Christian, to be a “little Christ”. The true disciple responds to Jesus’ call to live in this world but as citizens of an entirely different kingdom. Fundamentally, being a Christian can never be separated from the invitation of Jesus to “follow me.” He never lied about the danger or cost associated with becoming His follower. He told his disciples up front, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)
When a disciple of Jesus hears the call and they follow the call, they recognize that it is a life-and-death proposition. It is all or nothing. It’s not just about surviving or simply being good. It’s about abandoning oneself to the ways, patterns, and will of the master. It’s about living on the edge of life like Jesus did. It’s about living life fully awake and in tune with the steps of the master. It’s about living a life that is filled with God’s Spirit, and letting the spirit lead us to fulfill God sized dreams that are too big and too important to ignore. The disciple of Jesus isn’t concerned with just being good but being used by God in order to change the world. After all, that is what Jesus did and he called us to be like him.