“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Luke 9:23 (NIV)
Have you ever found yourself longing for a deeper connection with God, but you just weren’t sure where to even begin?
If you’re worried I’m going to tell you I have a long and overwhelming list of things I do every day to feel closer to Him … don’t be. Honestly, I just ask Him to renew me and shape me into the woman I need to be as I get into His Word. And I commit to following hard after Him, no matter what.
This helps me grow ever closer to God — pressing into Him so He makes the deepest impression on me.
In Luke 9:23b, Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” His words seem surprising at first. The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus. Or so it seemed … Family. Friends. Jobs. The comforts of home.
Yet, we find Jesus telling them the cost is going to be even higher than they had anticipated. The disciples aren’t being asked to lay down some things. They are going to need to lay down everything. Their plans. Their agendas. Maybe even their own lives.
And while it might sound like a lot to ask, because of their willingness to continue following hard after Jesus, they will experience a level of closeness with Him unlike anyone else.
Closeness when they take communion with Jesus before He is crucified. (Luke 22:12-20)
Closeness when He bends low to wash their feet. (John 13:1-17)
Closeness when He eats with them after His resurrection. (Luke 24:36-43)
Closeness when they’re among the first to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)
So not only did they have the promise of eternity with Him in heaven, they also had the privilege of experiencing unparalleled intimacy with Him on earth.
Could they have received any sweeter gift?
This is what my heart hungers for when it comes to the Lord. I want connection. I want communion. I want closeness. Not only in a distant, heavenly future, but right here. Right now.
That’s why I’m so thankful Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in Luke 9:23 is for us, too. Jesus also invites us close. Which means we, too, are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.
I realize “taking up our cross” may sound strange or vague at first, but for me, it has meant breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth. It has meant moving beyond a “plastic” Christian checklist: Go to church. Read the Bible. Don’t cuss. Be nice. Pray. Give to the poor … and instead, letting God mess with any and every area of my life.
It has meant things like offering Him my willingness to step away from TV for a season, fixing my eyes on Him first in the morning (instead of checking email and social media), and allowing Him to call me to a new level of discipline in my eating habits. I’ve offered up these things because I long for an ever-closer walk with Him.
I don’t know exactly what following wholeheartedly after God will look like for you. But I do know that if we want to grow closer to God, we’ll have to distance ourselves from whatever is distracting us. We’ll have to lay aside whatever we are prone to delight in more than Him.
Let’s ask God which distractions we need to distance ourselves from in order to grow closer to Him, and then let’s do the hard and holy work of denying ourselves. Because a deeper level of intimacy with Him will always be worth the cost.
Lord, show me what stands in the way of intimacy with You, and give me the strength to lay it down — for a season or maybe even forever. I long to be closer to You. No matter the cost. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY
Luke 9:24, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (NIV)
One of the things that keeps us from growing closer to God is our struggle to fully trust Him. Identify your own trust issues with God and how to overcome them by unpacking pivotal, relevant life lessons from the kings of the Old Testament in Lysa TerKeurst’s new Bible study, Trustworthy. Order your copy here today.
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REFLECT AND RESPOND
What distractions do you struggle with the most when it comes to drawing closer to God? How can you purposefully make Him a priority this week? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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