'Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.' Luke 9 v 23-26
I think all of us has a problem with doing what God wants and going His way - instead, many of us do what we want and go our own way, rejecting God and his plans for us. But when we accept Jesus as our Saviour and repent from what we've done wrong, we are a new creation:
'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!' 2 Corinthians 5 v 17
This should lead to living our lives for Him and not doing what we want anymore... this means we shouldn't give into ourselves and our sinful desires. We must deny all these things now and let the Holy Spirit control us and what we want.
'Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God— this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.' Romans 12 v 1-2
It is hard though, as we all do things our own way, but if we ask God for help in doing what he wants and by no longer living for this world (which will not last forever), He will help us. He will transform us, as He promises in the verse above.
Remember, it's all about Him now that we have chosen to follow Him... living for God is not just something we do on a Sunday or when we are surrounded by people who are Christian - it means following God 24/7, it means letting him into every area of our lives... and that means every area. And if you haven't already, I suggest that you ask God to help you follow Him, now.
'We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed....So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.' 2 Corinthians 4 v 8- 9, 18
However, everyone knows that taking up the cross and following Jesus is a lot harder than it looks. We all realise that if we are obeying what Jesus says when everyone else is doing something else, it's going to be tough. It often seems to me, that when I'm with other people trying to live for God, at church or at a conference or with friends or with my family, living for God and trying to do what He says seems normal and above all natural.
But when we're with other people who don't believe, everything we try to aim for and pray for often seems really stupid and old fashioned, especially if you are all alone in trying to live like Him at school, college, university or in your work place. Because we often get all this grief from others, we often have doubts, are scared to share our faith with people and can often feel like completely giving up.
But don't! Don't give up!
This world we live in is living in so much darkness and as children of God and so children of the light of the world, we need to shine! We need to show non-Christians that being a Christian makes us happier because of God's love for us and that we're going to spend eternity with him. We need to trust in the Lord, our rock in times when we can and cannot handle the pressure of living for him.
' Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.' 1 Peter 4:12-19
We need to remember God is with us, wherever we are.. in tricky situations we get into with our friends; when we say or do something really embarrassing and everyone laughs at us; when we're stuck in traffic jams and running late; when we feel depressed and alone; when we feel everyone is against us; when we cannot sleep for fear of the next day and what it might bring; when we're on holiday or abroad; and when we have a days that are great and we feel happy... we must remember that God is always there and we also have the Holy Spirit within us permanantly:
'And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit' Ephesians 1 v 13
We need to encourage and build other Christians we know up in faith, pray for each other and be examples to one another with the way we live our lives.
'Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.' 1 Thessalonians 5v11
'pray continually' 1 Thessalonians 5v 17
'...set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.' 1 Timothy 4v12
We need to pray for Christians across the globe who are also being persecuted, but are in prison for it, awaiting excections and being tortured. We should be thankful that we can meet together in the open, and though people can tease us about it, Christianity is legal in the UK and in other countries around the world.
We also need to pray for and ask God to help us forgive the people who are rude and make our lives a misery. We need to remember God loves them as much He loves us.'But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,' Matthew 5 v 44
And finally, we need to pray that God will give us oppourtunities to share our faith and that we will not be afraid to.. something I struggle with.
'I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.' Philemon 1v6
My friend suggested this Bible verse to me and I'm really glad she did, for I realised I needed to share my faith more often than I did. I prayed about it and I feel less afraid to share my faith with people now. In fact, a few of my friends are actually interested and ask me questions.. stuff which I need to ask my minister about.
I still have oppourtunities when I don't tell anyone at all and let what I believe pass me by, and if you have moments like that we need to keep on praying that we will be able to share our faith the next time we are with them.
Being a Christian is about standing out from the crowd. Being a follower of Christ is about having the guts to be the odd one out. Being a Christian is not about what's here, on this planet for us - it's about the great things God has in store for us in Heaven, where we will live with Him for eternity.
Who will always be alive, Jesus or the people who pressure us to give in?
And who has power over all the Earth for ever and ever?
Remember, we have a limited time on this planet and only God knows when ours comes to an end.
So start today if you haven't already - ask God to come and take complete control of your life and how you live it for Him.
Take up your cross, and follow Him.