If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. — Luke 9:23
I remember being in college before I knew what a prerequisite was. I guess I could define it if I was asked, but I really thought about what it meant for the first time when a professor told me I could take a class out of order if he wrote me a recommendation. I don’t even remember if he actually had to do that for me, but I do remember the vocabulary word being added to my brain.
I was reading a conversation between an American preacher and a Chinese preacher. The Chinese preacher was asked, “What do you think the biggest difference is in our churches?” He simply said, “What you Americans call sanctification, our people call the prerequisite.”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking of this. This was so true in my own life. I was saved at 16, but for 5 years I didn’t follow Jesus or even take the time to read His Word. I denied myself no worldly pleasure, and I certainly didn’t take up my cross and die daily to myself. I do remember one of my first acts of obedience; breaking up with a girlfriend because I knew it was what God required of me. Years after that, I had to learn to teach math “as unto the Lord.” Seven years after becoming an educator, I decided to be a teacher who honored God. It totally transformed how I felt and still feel about going to work. Immediately after that first year of doing it for Him, I wondered why I didn’t do it sooner.
There were 13 years that passed between my getting saved and becoming a decent follower of God. Here in America, we would say that God was putting me through the process of sanctification. He is slowly making me into His image. Make no mistake . . . He is! But do we American preachers allow it to take far too long? By allowing people to “receive Jesus into their hearts,” which is nowhere found in the Bible, do we rob them? Would it not be better to simply do as Jesus did and flat out lay the prerequisites on the table? Deny yourself! Take up your cross every single day! Follow Him! These prerequisites have nothing to do with fixing yourself or cleaning yourself up, only Jesus can do that, but it has everything to do with doing the things He says to do regardless of the way you feel.
Here is what hurts to think about: In China, in order to become a Christian in the first place, you must make this decision to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. You count the cost, respond to the call, and go for it. What took me 13 years to decide and figure out after becoming a Christian through the American system, they decide before they even leave the starting gate. No wonder they thrive over there. No wonder they have a love for Him and His Word that we can only admire from afar.
I say that to say this: If you are “struggling” with gossip, with laziness, with pornography, with sexual immorality, with loving people who aren’t like you, with arguing incessantly about political views, with being a jerk, with letting go of material possessions, with letting go of worry, with letting go of the love of money, basically with anything that the Bible calls sinful, lay it all down right now and really follow Jesus. Don’t hate your job, whatever it may be, do it for Him! Work like you are working for the Lord, not for men! Here, in America, we think God is supposed to wave His magic wand and make us all of a sudden tolerant of the things that we really hate. In China, you simply drop it all in the first place and follow knowing that your life could end at any moment because of your faith. They really believe that to die . . . is gain. They really believe that, whatever happens, God is orchestrating it all for their good. They, unlike us, cannot be inconvenienced out of Christianity.
Lord, help us to follow you! Like, really follow you!