March 01, 2015

Following Jesus

Mark 8:31-38

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

—  Mark 8:34

Jesus demands a lot from us to be his disciples: bearing our own crosses. In other words, being a Christian doesn't just mean we believe the right things about Jesus, or even claim to love him. He demands a life of sacrificial service—not to gain his favor, of course, but out of gratitude for what he has gained for us—forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

On this second Sunday in the season of Lent, we are at a good starting point to learn about deny­ing ourselves, taking up our own crosses, and following Christ. Jesus came to give us real life, and we can find that by turning our lives over to him. Getting in spiritual shape to follow Christ takes daily discipline, "crucifying" (or, dying to) our selfishness to be freed to serve him.

My naval service taught me the necessity of discipline: from stay­ing physically fit to learning the skills and knowledge to do my best every day. It took dedi­cation. These lessons apply as well to following Christ Jesus. Dis­cipleship takes discipline, spiritual discipline.

Lent is an annual opportunity to get (back) into spiritual shape for Christ. This month we'll look at spiritual disciplines so that by the time Easter comes, we can be fit disciples to carry our crosses for Christ.

Lord Jesus, you gave your life on the cross to pay for our sins and to give us new life. Teach us how to take up our crosses as we journey through Lent this year. In your name we pray. Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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