“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
–Jesus the Christ (Luke 9:23, ESV)
There’s an old saying that traces its roots back to ancient Greece: “Moderation in all things.” The maxim is quite useful for many things in life such as how much food to grab at the buffet table, how much entertainment to enjoy in a day, and how many felines to own at home (I’m looking at you, crazy cat ladies).
But when it comes to following Jesus, can we also do so in moderation?
Can we seek God in moderation?
Can we trust in moderation?
Can we serve in moderation?
Can we obey in moderation?
Can we give in moderation?
Can we make disciples in moderation?
Can we surrender to Christ in moderation?
Can we really follow Jesus in moderation? And the answer is no. One of the hardest things for us to understand is that Jesus actually expects every believer to go completely all-out for Him. He expects nothing less than wholehearted love and devotion. Period. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, ESV). The words of Christ here seem quite extreme. If we want to follow Jesus, we must choose to deny ourselves—quite the challenge in our self-centered world. If we want to follow Jesus, we must take up our crosses—the symbol of hardship, difficulty, and death. Following Jesus doesn’t seem very enticing to the casual disciple. The picture of discipleship that Jesus portrays isn’t a tame and moderate one. Instead, Jesus expects us to follow Him today like there’s no tomorrow. He expects us to go completely all-out for Him. And this troubles us because it has severe implications for how we are to live our lives today.
What would your life look like if you decided to follow Jesus extremely rather than moderately? How would that affect your lifestyle? Your time? Your relationships? Your purpose? Your priorities? Your behavior? Your spending habits? It’s quite possible that your life today will look much different if you decide to take the words of Jesus more seriously than you’ve ever done before and commit to following Him like there’s no tomorrow.
There’s a lot of resistance to following Jesus in this extreme manner. You have your own dreams and desires and you might have to painfully trade them for the things of God. Family and friends will probably think you’re crazy for going all-out for Jesus. They may think you’re taking this whole Jesus-business a little too far. But at the end of the day, is there really any other way to follow Jesus than to follow Him extremely?
So what’s it going to be? Shall we follow Jesus moderately or shall we do so extremely? I believe the latter is the only way to live.