January 4, 2018
“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NIV)
I would love to tell you that I have a long and impressive list of goals for 2018. But I'm not really into writing out my goals for the new year. Honestly, I just want to follow hard after the Lord every day and let Him renew me and shape me into the woman I need to be this year.
I want to grow ever closer to God — pressing into Him so He makes the deepest impression on me.
So that's my goal. Maybe it’s one of your goals too. Growing closer to God.
But how do we do that? How can we position ourselves to grow closer to God this year?
In Luke 9:23b, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
His words seem surprising at first. The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus. Or so it seemed …
Family. Friends. Jobs. The comforts of home.
Yet, in our key verse today, we find Jesus telling them the cost is going to be even higher than they had originally anticipated. The disciples aren’t being asked to lay down some things. They are going to need to lay down everything. Their plans. Their agendas. Maybe even their own lives.
And while it may sound like a lot to ask, because of their willingness to continue following hard after Jesus they will get to experience a level of closeness with Him unlike anyone else.
Closeness when they take communion with Him before He is crucified. (Luke 22:12-20)
Closeness when He bends low to wash their feet. (John 13:1-17)
Closeness when He eats with them after His resurrection. (Luke 24:36-43)
Closeness when they are among the first to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)
So not only did they have the promise of eternity with Him in heaven, they also had the privilege of experiencing unparalleled intimacy with Him on earth.
Could they have received any sweeter gift?
This is what my heart hungers for when it comes to the Lord. I want connection. I want communion. I want closeness. Not only in a distant heavenly future but right here. Right now.
That’s why I’m so thankful Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in Luke 9:23 is for us, too. We are also invited close. Which means we are also called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.
I realize “taking up our cross” may sound strange or vague at first, but for me it’s meant breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth. It’s meant moving beyond a plastic Christian checklist … Go to church. Read the Bible. Don’t cuss. Be nice. Pray. Give to the poor … and letting God mess with any and everyarea of my life.
It has meant things like offering Him my willingness to step away from TV for a season, fixing my eyes on Him first in the morning, instead of my phone and allowing Him to call me to a new level of discipline in my eating habits. Things I have said “yes” to because I long for an ever-closer walk with Him.
I don’t know exactly what following wholeheartedly after God will look like for you. But I do know that if we want to grow closer to God this year, we’ll have to distance ourselves from whatever is distracting us. We’ll have to lay aside whatever we are prone to delight in more than Him.
Let’s ask God which distraction we need to distance ourselves from in order to grow closer to Him, and then let’s do the hard and holy work of denying ourselves. Because a deeper level of intimacy with Him will always be worth the cost.
Lord, show me what stands in the way of intimacy with You, and give me the strength to lay it down — for a season or maybe even forever. I long to be closer to You. No matter the cost. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Luke 9:24, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (NIV)
Do you ever struggle with following God with your whole heart? You’re not alone! We all face times when we are tempted to chase after the things of this world instead of living in obedience to God. That’s why we want to invite you to join us on our free First 5 app as we study the books of 1 & 2 Kings — the story of God’s grace for a rebellious people. You can download it here today.
You can follow along with Lysa TerKeurst — as she follows after the heart of God — on her Instagram.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Spend some time praying, and ask God which distraction you need to distance yourself from in order to grow closer to Him.