Read Luke 14:26-27
"If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, more than your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple. And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me." (NLT)
Do you think it's too much for Jesus to demand this amount of love? Is following Jesus something you can do just on weekends? Who's the real judge as to who's a Christian or not?
There are many stereotypes of Christians. Some see a sword-wielding crusader fighting God's holy wars. Some see a blood-drenched inquisitor demanding people repent of sins they didn't commit or die. The televangelist is a popular Christian stereotype. They're seen as charismatic con-men selling divine blessings. Then there's the geeky teenagers in their Christian clubs wearing "Virgin and proud of it!" t-shirts. And who can forget the street preachers direly predicting damnation on all who walk by?
What is a Christian? It's an easy question, but the answer's not so easy. Is a Christian anyone who claims to be a born again believer? Or is a Christian someone who lives in a vaguely religious environment--like America--and lives a mostly good life? If you do a Google search of "Christian", what comes up? What do the sociologists and religious studies professors say? Instead of listening to these experts, let's go straight to the source to find the answer.
The Bible, in fact, tells us where the term Christian comes from. "When he [Barnabas] found him [Paul], he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians)" (Acts 11:26, NLT). The term Christians simply means "Christ-ones", or "followers of Christ."
It was clear to the people of Antioch that Paul, Barnabas, and the other believers had a distinct lifestyle, and that lifestyle came from following the teaching of Jesus. At one point while He was on earth, Jesus spelled out exactly what it means to follow Him.
"If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, more than your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple. And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me" (Luke 14:26-27, NLT).
The people listening to Jesus would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about when He said, "carry your own cross." They knew it meant crucifixion and death. Many, but not all, of the disciples did die because they followed Jesus. But before they died physically, they died a little inside by saying, "I'm not going to spend my life on myself, I'm going to spend it on living for Jesus." That's what it means to carry your own cross today, and that's what it means to be a Christian.
Lord Jesus, give me the strength to keep my eyes on you. Please give me the discipline to follow you even when it's not so easy. Amen.