*Article was published in the February edition of The Herald; a monthly publication of Green Hill Baptist Church.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me…” Luke 9:23
This has become a foundational verse in our Sunday evening message series entitled “Radical Together.” In this series, we’ve been discussing what it means to be totally committed followers of Christ (individually and corporately as a church). This study has involved two core truths – we are God’s people, and we exist to fulfill God’s purpose. This sounds simple, yet we are constantly tempted to live as though we don’t belong to God and that our purposes are more important than God’s purposes. I would submit that even today we’ve been confronted by these two temptations.
Jesus clearly stated that denying self is the first step to following Him. He addressed “self” first because He knew that “self” would be the greatest enemy we would face in totally committing ourselves to following Him. Rather than Jesus occupying the throne of our heart and life, there is a very real temptation to put ourselves on the throne. When this happens, Jesus is no longer ruling and reigning in our life. Instead, we are calling the shots – what we want, prefer, and desire becomes the driving force in our life. This is the antithesis of discipleship. Discipleship is all about Lordship. In other words, a disciple or follower of Christ is someone who says, “Lord, you are the Master and I am the servant. Whatever you say goes.” If we want to follow Jesus we must deny (literally die) to self. He is to be Lord of our life, and “self” is the greatest enemy to His Lordship.
So, consider what I call the “open-hand principle.” Am I holding everything in my life with an open hand? This gets at the heart of Lordship. If Jesus is Lord of our life and we are seeking to follow Him, then we will be willing to hold everything with an open hand - all of our material possessions, families and relationships, money and all earthly treasures. As Lord, we allow Him to use everything in our life for His purposes and His glory. It’s no longer our money, but His. It’s no longer our family, but His. It’s no longer our church, but His. It’s no longer our ministries, but His. You get the point? As we yield to His Lordship, we allow Him to rightfully occupy the throne of our heart and life (and church).
The challenge is that we’re tempted to hold on to things with a white-knuckle grip. It might be money and possessions, people and relationships, or likes and personal preferences. A closed hand reflects and closed heart. So, right now, are we holding everything with an open hand? If not, what do we need to let go of? I’ve learned that God always knows how to pry open our hands. He knows how to de-throne whatever is taking His place in our life, but I can say this - it’s never a pleasant experience when He does the de-throning. So, let’s join together in willingly opening our hands and submitting to His Lordship.