Many people claim to follow Christ, but they are actually only associating with the crowd. Discipleship is different. Following Jesus means you forsake the conveniences of this fleeting world to obtain the joys of this Kingdom’s lifestyle.
Jesus isn’t looking for a crowd; he’s calling out for disciples.
He’s not wanting to gather people who associate with him inconsistently. He wants men and women who are willing to follow him all the way.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”Mark 8:34
Jesus never lacked clarity. He did not want to leave his disciples unsure of the level of commitment needed to follow him. In one of his most blunt explanations, he raised the bar regarding discipleship. Read his words in Mark 8:34-38.
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Did you notice that he called two different groups of people at the beginning of this scene? What are the words used, and how would you define each one (8:34)?
Before Jesus gave these words, he called the crowd and the disciples.
Plenty of people showed interest in being associated with Jesus, but few actually followed him.
If anyone wanted to join that group, he made it very clear regarding the degree of devotion.
Discipleship must include denying yourself. It is what moves you from being a part of the crowd to being one of the disciples.
What could prohibit that? When you begin to protect your comforts and conveniences, it can ruin your discipleship efforts. You can gain the whole world and lost your soul in the process. You can work hard to keep certain things of this world and neglect the Savior of the world.
The crowd comes along when Jesus is convenient.
The disciples stick around even when it is not.
Which one are you?
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.