Christian Life 101

Title: Christian Life 101

Bible Book: Luke 9 : 23

Author: Terry Trivette

Subject: Christian Life; Christianity, Basic



I’ve been reading an interesting book this week entitled Not a Fan. It was written by a pastor named Kyle Idleman. In the book Idleman discusses the difference between those who are merely fans of Jesus, and those who are committed followers of Jesus. In the introduction of the book the pastor prepares the reader for the message he is about to share with them. He says, “I will talk more about repentance than forgiveness, more about surrender than salvation, more about brokenness than happiness, and more about death than about life.”[i]

While I would not agree with all of Idleman’s theology, in his book he powerfully describes the serious nature of Christ’s call to His people. Jesus doesn’t want fans. He wants followers. Becoming a Christian is as simple as believing the gospel. Being a Christian is nothing short of a life-long commitment to follow Jesus in a walk of selflessness, service, and sacrifice.

Jesus never made any bones about what it would take to follow Him. He was bold and blunt about what the Christian life involves. In Luke 9:23, we find a statement from Jesus that is repeated almost verbatim in both Matthew and Mark’s gospel. The Lord wanted to make sure we heard it. He said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

While many American’s live with an easy-breezy, comfy-cozy, no-cost kind of Christianity, it is far removed and little like the kind of committed life Jesus prescribed for His followers.

Let’s consider carefully the words of our Lord here as we seek to be reminded, or perhaps introduced for the first time, to what the Christian life is all about.

First of all, we learn here that to follow Christ is:


Jesus began this call in verse 23 by saying, “If any man,” or literally “anyone.” The good news is that Jesus is willing to receive anyone who wants to come to Him. However, His call is not just to come to Him, but to come with Him. He says, “If any man will come after me…” That phrase, “come after me,” points us to the fact that Jesus calls us to change directions when we turn to Him as our Savior. Consider what it means for us as Christians to “come after” Jesus with our lives. First of all:

A. It’s a matter of leadership

The phrase “come after” is translated perfectly. It comes from a pair of words that literally mean “get behind”. Jesus was saying that to follow Him, we must literally follow Him. He is to be our leader. He is the one who is in front of us and the one whose steps we are taking right after He takes them.

There is an old bumper sticker that I used to find amusing. Now it’s more annoying than amusing. It is the one that says, “God is my co-pilot”. The Christian life is not one in which Jesus rides shotgun with you and helps you decide which streets to turn on. The Christian life is one in which Jesus leads and you follow. He doesn’t ask us to let Him go with us. He calls us to go with Him. To be a follower of Jesus is to let Him lead you wherever He sees fit to go. To come after Him is to let Him have the lead in your life.

Psalms 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.” As a Christian you might say that the steps of a good man are ordered by the God-man.

He is in the front, and we are behind Him, walking in His steps. To follow Jesus is to alter the course for your life, and it is a matter of leadership. Furthermore:

B. It is a matter of love

Look again at verse 2 Jesus said, “If any man will come after me…” Look again at that phrase “come after”. I found it interesting that this phrase “come after” was one that was often used in the context of a romantic relationship. In other words, Jesus is referring to following Him as a matter of love. He is talking to those who would come after Him because they love Him and genuinely want to be with Him.

I remember when Angel was trying to win to my heart. Every time I turned around, there she was! She was showing up at my work, calling my phone, sleeping in her car in my driveway. Alright, truthfully the last one never happened…and I did most of the chasing, but you get the picture. Love caused us to pursue and follow after the object of our affection.

When you are a follower of Jesus, you come after Him, not only because of His leadership, but because of your love!

In 2 Corinthians 5:4, the Apostle Paul makes the statement, “For the love of Christ constraineth us…” He said that it was the love of Christ that kept him going. I’ve often thought of that text and wondered whether Paul was talking about Christ’s love for him, or his love for Christ. I think it is both. We love Him because He first loved us, and that love, both His for us, and ours for Him is what constrains us to alter the course for our lives and come after Jesus.

The Christian life cannot be lived headed in the same direction you’ve always been going. Somewhere you must be one of the “anyone’s” who comes after Jesus in a life of following Him.

As we look back at our text, we recognize that following Christ is not only to alter the course for your life, but it is also secondly:


Look again at the words of Jesus in verse 2 He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself…” Notice that phrase, “let him deny himself”. Those words sound utterly crazy to a culture that says we are to “love ourselves”. In our society, self-image and self-esteem are considered absolutely critical to a healthy and happy life. The truth is, however, Jesus died to give us salvation, not self-esteem; and that salvation is for the purpose of making us holy, not happy.

With that in mind, when we understand the meaning of the words, “deny himself,” we realize that Jesus is calling us to deal with ourselves in a difficult and decisive way. Consider what it means to abandon the control of your life by denying yourself. First of all, Jesus is talking about:

A. The close of the self-life

That phrase, “deny himself,” means more than just telling yourself no, or depriving yourself of something you might want. The Greek scholar, Spiros Zhodiates says that this phrase means “to disown and renounce” yourself. The idea is of letting go of the rights you have over your own life. It is forgetting that your life is yours at all. Again, this is totally opposite of the prevailing mindset of our culture. Our culture says that it’s your life to live, and that you should be “living the high life” and “have it your way.” We are living in the “me”llennium. People live for themselves, and do primarily what pleases them.

Even Christians have adopted this mentality. They go to church for what it can do for them. They want to be served and blessed, and have their egos coddled and caressed by positive preaching and popular singing. They are Christian consumers, taking much and giving little, satisfying their selves and serving their own needs and wants in churches that too often cater to their selfishness. Yet the Christian life is not about consuming; it is about consecration. Following Jesus means that the self-life is renounced and disowned. You can’t have your way and go His way at the same time. You can’t give Jesus some and keep the rest for yourself. He does not want part-time, half-hearted followers. If you would come after Him, you must deny yourself, which is the close of the self-life. Moreover, to deny yourself is also:

B. The call to the slave-life

If a person renounces their self, and gives up the rights over their own life, what do they become? Who then has rights over them? I think the answer is found in the word that the Bible frequently uses to describe followers of Christ. We are called “servants”. The Apostle Paul opened Romans, Philippians, and Titus by calling himself “a servant” of Jesus Christ. James called himself “a servant”. II Peter opens with the title, “servant”. Jude also chose to identify himself as a “servant”. And John opened the book of the Revelation, which he said was given to God’s “servants.”

The word “servant” in our Bibles, however, is somewhat misleading. We think of a servant as someone who is hired to work. The word translated “servant”, however, is the word duolos, which means a bond slave. A bond slave is a person who has chosen to live as a slave to someone else. They have willingly surrendered their rights over to the control of another. Jesus will not make you become a slave to Him, but He calls you to choose slavery to Him over living for yourself. Why would someone ever choose to become a slave? They would do so only if they believed they would be better off as slaves to Jesus than as free men apart from Him. In America, we really like the idea of freedom. It is something we treasure in this earthly country. As Christians, however, we have become partakers in a kingdom. And in that kingdom, slavery to a Savior is preferred over freedom of the self.

To follow Jesus then is to alter the course for your life. It is to abandon the control of your life. Lastly, as we look at these words of our Lord, we are mindful that to follow Him is:


Jesus said, “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” When Jesus uttered these words He was headed towards the cross. He wanted us to know that if we were to come after Him, a cross would be waiting for us as well.

The only crosses many Christians won’t anything to do with are ones that are made of gold and worn as jewelry. However, Jesus wasn’t calling for cross wearers; He was calling for cross bearers. What does our Lord mean by this call to “take up your cross”? Well, I think first of all, we must be honest and say that:

A. This is a deadly practice

Everyone that originally heard Jesus speak these words knew exactly what a cross was. The cross was the Roman equivalent of the electric chair. The cross was where the Romans hung criminals to shame them and execute them publicly for their crimes. If you took up a cross in that day, you were saying that you were going to die. That is exactly what Jesus is saying to us. To take up our cross is to take up the instrument of your own death. Jesus is calling us to die to ourselves and lay our lives down for His sake. We must die to our wants. We must die to our rights. We must die to our ambitions. We must die to our needs. We must die to everything but following Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who was imprisoned and eventually died under the Nazi regime. He wrote a book entitled “The Cost of Discipleship.” In it, Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”[ii]

What is remarkable about this death is that through it we find real life. In the next verse, Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

Understand, in calling us to the cross, Jesus is not trying to kill us as much as He is trying to save us! He knows that our only hope at real life is to follow Him into death!

Recently, someone has taken the great hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, and updated it, adding this refrain:

Oh the wonderful cross!

Oh the wonderful cross!

Bids me come and die,

And find that I may truly live!

Understand then that life with Jesus is a deadly practice of taking up your own cross. Also, we see here that it is not only a deadly process, but:

B. This is a daily process

Note that Jesus calls us to take up our cross “daily”. The idea is that every day we must die to ourselves.

In I Corinthians 15:31, the Apostle Paul said, “…I die daily.” Every day that He lived was another opportunity to die to himself and live only to Christ.

Human beings do not like to die. We fight hard not to die. We run from death and do whatever we can to survive. Yet the follower of Christ understands that living without Jesus isn’t really living, and they would rather die daily on their cross than live daily for themselves.

Understanding all that Jesus said in this verse, some of you may be thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this. I came to Jesus for eternal life, not a daily death. The only cross I ever heard about was His, and no one said anything about mine!” Unfortunately, too often the church has preached a watered-down, cheapened gospel, and many have bought into it without reading all the details. Yet, Jesus made clear in His Word what was expected of those who would follow Him. His grace would save them and transform them, but that transformation comes through a life of discipleship, discipline, and death to self. Following Jesus means we receive the forgiveness and grace of His death on the cross. It also means that we take up our own cross, and accept its work in our life.

In the book, Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman says, “My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him.”[iii]

My belief is that if a person is truly saved they will be more than a fan of Jesus. Somewhere they will embrace the call to follow Jesus. Fans abound in our day, but Jesus doesn’t want His people to be just supporters; He wants them to be servants and slaves to His Lordship. He calls to all of us who truly know Him and believe upon Him to come after Him, and to pursue Him with passion and devotion. He calls us to forget about ourselves and to crucify ourselves for the sake of living for Him. Though that may sound radical and extreme in this day. It has always been and will always be the normal Christian life. It is Christian Life 101.

[i] Idleman, Kyle, Not a Fan, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2011), Amazon Kindle edition

[ii] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, “The Cost of Discipleship”,, accessed 8/26/11,

[iii] Idleman, Kyle, Amazon Kindle edition

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