Lent is the time of year when many of us choose to give something up as an act of sacrifice. And yet, my giving up peanut M&Ms seems to pale in comparison to Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness that led to His death on the cross. What if, instead of focusing on these next 40 days, we instead choose to do something transformative?

In Luke 9:23 (NIV) (and similarly in Matthew 16:24), Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Breaking this down, in order to be a disciple of Christ, we are asked to:

  • Deny yourself;
  • Take up our cross; and
  • Follow Jesus.

What does it mean to deny yourself? One way to deny yourself is to focus on how our decisions affect others. But, what if instead, we choose to stop saying “no” to God and start answering those calls. We have a unique opportunity to reach others now. Will your church allow you to use the Zoom account in order to host a Bible study? Is there a ministry that could serve even more people if you were to lend your talents to it? Or, could you simply ask your pastor what you can do to relieve some of his or her burden? What would the Kingdom of God look like if each of us simply gave up a little more of “our” time for God?

Taking up the cross is a more difficult one. Jesus said in Luke 9:24-25 (NIV), “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Matthew 16:25-26 is similar.

Have you ever thought of what it costs to be a Christian? For some of us, this means giving up our Sunday mornings. Others may have lost family or friends as they turned away from their old ways. Speaking with our Burmese friends on the Southside of Indianapolis, we learn that many of them were literally prepared to lose their life in order to worship while living under an oppressive government regime.

Taking up your cross means something different to each of us, but this is ultimately the cost that we must bear in order to do what God has planned. What could you do if you no longer focused first on what others might think before making a decision? Is your career taking so much out of you that you are no longer able to give your best to God and your family? Are there other sacrifices that may need to be made in order to fully devote yourself to Christ?

Finally, Jesus asks us to follow him. In Matthew 4:19 (NIV), Jesus said, “Come, follow me” and the Bible says they “immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.” What would your response be if Jesus were to appear to you today and ask that same question? For the disciples, there was no hesitation. Perhaps this Lenten season should be the start of a lifetime of preparation and sacrifice, and rather than focus on the next forty (40) days, we should instead set our sights on taking up the cross daily and prepare ourselves for that day when Jesus says “Come, follow me.”

Terry Tolliver
Central District Lay Leader