It is an invitation.
It is a personal challenge.
It is a call to action.
It is an opportunity.
It is the eternal heartbeat of the Living God.
I find it fascinating that as few as eleven letters arranged into these three simple words can stir up so much debate and controversy. They seem so simple, so generic, so easy to brush over and brush aside. Yet they are the epicenter of the human race. They divide heaven and hell. They probe the depths of our heart with surgical precision and force us to choose who rules our heart.
Jesus Christ breathed these words by the Holy Spirit. They are recorded four times in this order in the Gospels (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27)
Mark 8:34 (AV) And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Jesus said “whosoever will” meaning anyone who wants to must choose to. Looking at some other versions will expand the meaning of His words.
Mark 8:34 (NKJV) “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Mark 8:34 (NASB95) And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Mark 8:34 (NLT) Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.
Mark 8:34 (AMP) And Jesus called [to Him] the throng with His disciples and said to them, If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and [joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me].
Mark 8:34 (TPT) Jesus summoned the crowd, along with his disciples, and had them gather around. And he said to them: “If you truly want to follow me, you should at once completely disown your own life. And you must be willing to share my cross and experience it as your own, as you continually surrender to my ways.
The Amplified and the Passion translations bring out the sense of complete surrender, total submission, and absolute trust in Him. We must be willing, and we must choose some things. We must be willing to say no to our ambitions goals and dreams and allow Him to live His ambitions goals and dreams through us.
The Louw Nida dictionary describes “come” as to move toward or up to the reference point of the viewpoint character or event—‘to come, coming.
Jesus must be our “reference point”, our target. I believe far too many Christians make decisions about their lives without consulting the reference point. I think we get ourselves into trouble and distress by ignoring this invitation. Did you ask the Lord about the new job? Did you ask Him about where He wants you to live? Are you pursuing Him ardently, or “just looking” to see if you can find Him?
I understand this is an abstract concept. How can I “move toward a reference point” when I can’t see it? Ahhh, there is the problem! We must see with our heart! The Lord moves into our spirit when we accept His offer of forgiveness and redemption. We move toward Him by searching our own heart for Him, learning to sense His will, and choosing to agree with Him in every decision we face. We come after Him by reading and studying and pondering His Word, the Bible, then determining to do whatever it says to do.
John 2:5 (NKJV) His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”
We come after Him when we do what He says not what we want. If He says something to me, and I do not obey, that is called rebellion. It’s what got Lucifer kicked out of his original ministry.
If we are not actively pursuing the presence of the Lord we are not “coming” but going. If we do not think about the Lord very often and do not consult Him on the issues of life we are not moving toward Him but drifting away from Him. We must be consistently deliberately and even forcefully pressing in to Him all day long. Every moment we are not coming after the Lord we are choosing an idol. If we are not committed to Him we are committed to someone or something else. He insists on being first! And by His supreme sacrifice of His own life He has the right to be first in every heart.
Some believe a confession of Christianity at salvation is enough to last a lifetime. If that were true why would the Lord challenge us to “come after Him” four different times in the synoptic Gospels? If we confess Jesus as Lord at salvation then never talk about Him (or with Him) for months on end, are we really “coming after Him”? I think not!
If I looked at one week of your life it would be clear to me whether you are pursuing the Lord with zeal or carrying a convenient cloak of religion you hope no one inspects closely. Even more importantly, the Lord is intimately aware of our every thought and motive! It is not about satisfying the curiosity of someone about your relationship with the Lord so much as challenging all of us to ensure we are genuinely honoring Him and working in our own heart to give Him the throne over every part of our lives.
Come! Let us pursue Him with passion. Let us seek for His heart with all of our heart. Let us spend all our strength and energy to be energized and strengthened in His presence.
“After” is the comparative degree of “aft”, a word used to describe the stern of a ship. It also refers to later in time. The stern of the ship follows the bow, and crosses a marker point after the bow does. Jesus is the Leader and we are invited to be followers. He wants us to go everywhere He goes, and not go anywhere He does not go. He is our reference point, the marker point we are moving toward. He has already gone where we must go. He died to Himself, gave up all He had, set aside His royal divine sovereignty, and humbled Himself to take our place. Having paid the price for our sins He rose from the dead to live in victory and freedom forever.
We must follow Him. We must die to our selfish desires, give up everything we have (be willing to at least-God may not require it but He wants us willing and obedient (Isa 1:19)), set aside our rights, and humble ourselves. We must acknowledge our sinful nature and be willing to be judged by God so that we can live forever in victory and freedom. Those who choose not to be accountable to Him will be devoured by the sword (Isa 1:20). The Sword of the Lord is His Word (Eph 6:17, Rev 2:16, Rev 19:15)
Since He is the Inviter, the Initiator of this amazing opportunity to be His Friend, He also enables us to follow Him. We cannot please Him fully without living entirely by the faith He gave us at salvation. We cannot do His will in our own strength. We cannot get to our destiny without His help and support. We cannot see the path we must walk unless he gives us light from His Word (Psa 119:105). We don’t even know if we are right or wrong unless His Word pierces our soul (Heb 4:12, Deut 32:4) The invitation to go after Him is a promise of His grace and mercy, His wisdom and strength, His friendship and support. It is impossible to pursue the Lord the way He wants to be pursued unless we die to self and receive His gracious gifts
God did not invite anyone to join a church. God does not want us to just “bring them to church”. There is an underlying assumption that if we can get someone to church, specifically our church (which is strangely better than all other churches in our mind), everything will be okay. The new member will “plug in” and “get involved” and everyone lives happily ever after. However, this mindset breeds religion like weeds and fosters perverted views of Christianity. It obscures the simplicity of the invitation.
Me is a person. Jesus Christ is personally inviting you and I to engage with Him personally. There is a depth and purity of intimacy offered by Him in this opportunity to fellowship with Him that very few understand or experience. Yet, it is our destiny! Do you think we float around heaven working on stuff and only see the Lord every few thousand years? NO! We live every moment, every breath, in His presence! He died to dissolve all barriers to intimacy with Him. The creation story in Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 show the Father’s heart for all mankind. And He planned all this before He began to create our universe!
I encourage you right now to examine your heart. Is your relationship with the Lord truly satisfying? Are you daily enriched by His presence, not just in His Word but also by His Spirit? Can you declare boldly that Jesus Christ is your best friend? Do you know His heart for you?
It is not too late. Why not make a decision right now to lay aside some things and commit to pursuing the Lord more than ever? Why not commit to Him being first place in your heart, once and for all? I assure you that it is the single most important decision a Christian can make. Nothing is more vital in today’s world than a living intimate friendship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing!
Prayer for Repentance and Salvation.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Saviour, I invite you to ask Him into your heart. If you knew the Lord but have not been hungering for Him I invite you to consider your ways and repent. He is faithful and righteous to wipe your slate clean when you confess your sin to Him! (1 John 1:9)
1 John 1:9 (NASB95) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
He gave His life for you, and you honour Him when you give your life for Him. It is the right thing to do!
1 Corinthians 6:20 (AV) For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
You must give yourself to God for Him to come into your life and help you change. He will not force you! Ever. But oh! The joy and peace and hope He gives you!
Romans 12:1–2 (NKJV) 1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 10:9 (NKJV) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
You must acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord, and you must believe He was resurrected from the dead by the Father, alive forever.
Say this prayer out loud.
Heavenly Father I turn to you and acknowledge You as the Almighty God, eternal and sovereign over all. I have been rebellious, selfish, and deceived trying to live without you. I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to redeem me from death and sin, and that He rose from the dead, alive forever with You. I ask you to forgive me of all my sin, known and unknown. Please come into my life as my Lord and my Saviour. Thank you for forgiving me, and redeeming me from sin. I choose to trust You and put You first in every area of my life. I will love You and serve You with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my resources, for the rest of my life, beginning right now. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!
If you prayed this to the Lord, please let me know! I have some resources to share with you, and will help you on your journey with the Lord.