25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.
When I was a child this passage bothered me. Why would Jesus want me to hate everyone who was important to me? Didn’t Jesus call us to be loving and committed to those in our lives? And the near-sacrifice of Isaac on the altar by his father, Abraham, gave me nightmares (Genesis 22). How could a good God ask a father to do that horrible act?
My immature idea of commitment to God did not encompass giving up the things I held most dear. I could not see that if I had my eyes focused squarely on Jesus, everything else would pale in comparison.
As I have grown in my faith and understanding of God, these passages still sting a bit. I look at my own beloved children and shudder to think of the thoughts running through Abraham’s mind as he was leading his son up the mountain. I cannot imagine being one of the disciples and hearing Jesus say that they must hate those they love the most for his sake.
However, I do understand a bit more of what Jesus meant when he said we must “give up everything” to be his disciple. Jesus was asking his disciples, and Abraham, to fix their eyes on him alone. He was asking them to set aside all of the things the world offers as substitutes for their affections and find complete fulfillment in him alone.
So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
How does one get to that position where they are willing to lose it all to gain Christ?
It involves giving up the labels we have for ourselves and setting aside the expectations others have for us. The heavy burden of our unmet expectations and old wounds literally crush us under their weight.
Instead, we should look to Jesus for our identity. He is calling us to a place where we can remove those burdens from our shoulders and give them to him. By removing the pressures and expectations of those around us and seeking replenishment in Christ, we find peace. When you come to a place in your relationship with God that you are willing to give up everything, you will know you truly love Jesus and are his disciple.
How are you doing spiritually? Do you feel dry and stunted like the shrubs growing in the wasteland, or are you flourishing like the trees growing along a stream?
What burdens and expectations are you carrying? Are they burdens someone else has place upon you? What does Jesus say about your identity?
Spend some time thinking about what makes you feel refreshed spiritually.
Intentionally set aside time this week to meet with God in prayer and Bible study. Consider finding an artist who helps you worship God for all he is through song, or go outside to appreciate God’s amazing creation, even if it’s just for 15 minutes each day.
Day 19 Focus – Broken Before Him (Psalms 51:17)
Dear God, I have missed the mark of righteousness many times. Yet while I was still separated from you, you loved me and sent your Son to die for me. Thank you, Lord. Today, I offer my broken spirit to you, for you alone can make it whole. I come to you asking for forgiveness from (insert areas of sin here), knowing I need you. Heal me, God. Teach my heart to break for what breaks yours. In your Son’s name, I pray. Amen.
Saturday: Day 20 Focus – My Growth (Ephesians 4:15)
Heavenly Father, I am not who I was before I met you—and it’s all because of you. Thank you for the growth I have been through, and thank you that you’re not finished with me yet! Teach me to be more and more like your Son every day. Help me to submit humbly to the situations you use to change my heart, even when I wouldn’t choose them for myself. Above all else, may I grow in love for you and for others. In Jesus’ name I pray! Amen.
Sunday: Day 21 Focus – To Praise Him (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Dear Father, I praise you for all you have done in my life and in my heart over these last 21 days. Thank you for drawing close to me and for leading me. Help me to continue growing and taking steps toward you throughout this year, so that I might know you more and make a difference for you. Amen.
This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.
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