Are you prepared to die?
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” -Luke 9:23
Following Jesus is no walk in the park. I hope nobody told you that Christianity was easy. In a world that sees Christ as either condemnable or irrelevant, it is not easy to stand up for Christ. I’m here to tell you, though, that unless you are willing to die, Christ is irrelevant to you, too.
Christianity is about sacrifice. Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that you must pick up your cross daily to follow him. This may sound like you need to put on a cross necklace and walk around with it, but that’s not what he means. Jesus is telling you that you have to be crucified in order to follow him. He is calling for your death.
We do not belong to ourselves anymore if we choose to follow Jesus; we belong to him. When we say, “Jesus, I accept your salvation,” we must die to ourselves so that we may live for Christ. This means that we have to sacrifice our own will for our lives and others’ will for our lives and follow Jesus’ will for our lives. This might mean that you have to give things up. It may mean you have to give up your possessions. It may mean that you have to give up your boyfriend or girlfriend. It may mean that you have to give up your family. It may mean that you have to give up your home. And it may mean that you have to give up your life as a martyr. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” We must live our lives as a sacrifice to God and his will.
Stephen was the first Christian to be killed for his faith. Here is a portion of that story from Acts:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. -Acts 7:54-60
Stephen stood up for Christ, even when the crowd present wanted to murder him. It cost him his life. Are you willing to do the same? Though it may cost you your life here, you will find eternal life and glory with Christ in paradise.