Our theme for the next few weeks is to discover, or rediscover what a complete disciple of Jesus Christ looks like. Jesus used two great symbols for Christian commitment. In Mark 8:34 He said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” The first symbol is a cross. The second symbol is a yoke. He spoke of the yoke when He said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” (Matthew 11:29)
The cross and the yoke symbolize for us the two different aspects of commitment. The cross is an instrument of death; the yoke an instrument of toil. The cross is an instrument of sacrifice; the yoke is the symbol of service. The cross suggests blood; the yoke suggests sweat. A complete disciple of Christ is one who is ready for either the cross or the yoke.
When we follow Jesus it should be with such absolute surrender that we are ready to die for Him, or we are ready to work for Him. We are ready to suffer, or we are ready to serve – whichever He may require.
I think if we were to draw a symbol for commitment to Christ, it would be a picture of a cross on one hand, a yoke on the other, and a Christian on his knees between them saying, “Ready for either.”
When Christ called for His followers to become His disciples, He was making a call for full commitment to follow Him. The first step to commitment is to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and make the decision to follow Him. The kind of decision that Christ calls for to be His disciple is to “deny ourselves, and take up His cross, and follow Him.”
What is self-denial? For Jesus, the cross stood for death in the most agonizing way. He uses the word cross to help us to understand what it really means to be committed to Him.
Our commitment to become a disciple of Jesus begins with a funeral. It is when we die to ourselves and begin to live for Jesus. Christ’s own great conflict between His own will and the will of His Father was settled in the Garden of Gethsemane. There on His knees Jesus said no to Himself and said yes to God. He prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.”
Self-denial means to say no to ourselves and to our own desires, appetites, ambitions, and pleasures. Well, that’s never easy is it? It is so contrary to our own nature. We all want our own way. We want to do our own things.
Self-denial is a practical expression of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is so surrendering our will to the Lord Jesus that we obey Him and follow Him in everything.
This is the first step to complete discipleship. It’s the step of self-denial! The second act of commitment to becoming a complete disciple is to take His yoke. Continued next week!