“Come, take up your cross, and follow me.”
The call of Jesus to follow him is a real and tangible command.
It is not the beginning of a philosophical discussion or the opening of a debate about doctrine. Jesus doesn’t present a plan for positive thinking or suggest seven simple steps to becoming his disciple. It is not merely an idea meant to guide us through difficult times in life as we do our best at doing the right thing.
Confessions of faith or intellectual discussions about biblical doctrine may help us better understand our commitment to Jesus, but the call of Jesus is not to any of these things. Because the call of Jesus is real, our response must be equally real. We must take concrete steps to follow him.
The only way we can follow the Teacher is to live out of a level of intimacy that can be sustained only by acknowledging Christ’s constant presence in our lives. He bids us to walk with him and work with him — watch how he does it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. He won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on us. If we keep company with him we'll learn to live freely and lightly. I believe this is what he means when he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).
“There is only one way of believing on Jesus Christ, and that is by leaving all and going with the incarnate Son of God,” says Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Thus, discipleship means we must give up any thought that there will be bits and pieces of our lives that can remain unaffected by our relationship with Jesus. In other words, we must be “all in.”
Here is the critical question we must ask to see if we following Jesus: How much of our service to Jesus is based upon what is convenient for us and how much of it is based upon us doing what Jesus is telling us to do? If we answer the latter, we might be in the right space.