Matthew 16:23-24 “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
When I want directions on how to achieve a goal or accomplish a task, I always go straight to the source for the answer. The Bible teaches us that there is safety in having a multitude of counselors. What does this mean? I believe what the Lord wants us to understand, is that when you need guidance with your finances, you go to an expert who knows how to manage money. If you have questions that pertain to your business, you seek advice from a business coach. When you need spiritual direction, you go to your pastor.
To find “directions for a disciple,” we must turn to whom we are attempting to follow: Jesus. The word disciple simply means “to follow.” During Jesus’ earthly ministry, His disciples tried their best to follow after Him. I can relate to the disciples, because like myself, they often failed. In fact, just a couple verses prior to the verses we are reviewing today, we see Jesus call one of His disciples “Satan.” Jesus said this because of the disciple’s inability to follow properly. Peter had good intentions, but don’t we all? He wanted to protect Jesus from the impending doom.
What Peter did not realize was that he was standing in the way of God’s divine salvation plan. God’s plan for Jesus was His death, burial, and resurrection. Salvation is truly the first step in following Christ, and Peter was offering a plan that stood in the way of this.
So, what “Directions for Disciples” did Jesus offer to Peter after his massive failure? Christ offered these three basic steps in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after me, let him”:
This should act as our “Directions for Disciples” checklist, a guiding compass as we seek to follow Christ. And just like any good checklist, it’s crucial that we follow it in order.
Notice first, we must deny ourselves. One can hardly call himself a disciple or follower of Christ if we are following ourselves. We must learn to bring every thought and desire into submission to Christ. If we aren’t careful, we may become lazy and attempt to do step #3 the “following” before we start with step #1 the “denying.” Jesus’ command to “consider the cost” of following Him was not an empty warning. The disciple’s mission begins at giving up some things our flesh desires, and we must understand this as we travel down this road.
Next, we are required to take up our cross. Christ took the sin of the world upon His back, offering the free gift of salvation to all. Thankfully, we are not called to take up the cross that Jesus had to bear. I often struggle with figuring out the best way to tackle my cross, rather than asking God what He desires me to learn and do with my cross. Crosses are never fun or easy. We must take our cross for what it is: God’s will. This will cause us to run to Him for help and direction! It is through this exercise that God teaches us dependence and eventually how to minister to others through bearing others’ burdens.
Now that we have denied ourselves, and taken up our cross upon our shoulders, we must follow. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a Christian find God’s general will for their life, which consists of:
As Christ reminds us in verse 25, we must lose our life to find it, and that journey will undoubtedly lead to the Christian finding God’s specific will for their life!
As you look at these steps, evaluate where you are in the process. Have you denied your flesh today? Have you lifted your cross that God has placed on you? Are you following the general will of God today? If you answer yes, you are heading in the right direction.
As children of God, we need to examine ourselves constantly to make sure our love is still devoted to Him.
Our willingness to humbly take correction and instruction is a pathway for wisdom.