“I was in Matthew’s gospel this morning,” Stan began. “I saw something that really gave me some pause.”
“What did you see?” I asked.
“When Jesus and Matthew first ran into one another,” Stan continued, “it is recorded that Jesus said one thing to Matthew. He said, ‘Follow Me,’ and Matthew immediately dropped everything he was doing and obeyed by following Jesus.”
“I know,” I said. “I have read that many times. What gave you pause about that?”
“Jesus said it once to Matthew and Matthew responded. But Jesus said it to me many times without any positive response on my part. In addition to that, Jesus continues to say it to me, and I am very slow and reluctant to follow. That is what gives me pause.”
“But,” I asked, “isn’t what Jesus said, as well as what He says, to you different from what He said to Matthew?”
“In what way, my friend?” Stan asked.
“With Matthew,” I responded, “it was a one-shot statement of ‘Follow Me.’”
“But,” I continued, “with you and me and with every other Christian, there are two steps before Jesus says, ‘Follow Me.”
“Exactly, my friend,” Stan exclaimed. “Jesus says to deny self and take up my cross. Then and only then can I follow Him.”
“That,” Stan said, “is why it took me so long in the first instance, and why it continues to take me way too long to follow Him even now. Self gets in the way and must be denied. And I want to do what I want, rather than what God wants. That has to change.”
“So,” Stan concluded, “I really do not know why Matthew responded the way he did and immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus. It must have been a powerful movement by God.”
“But I sure do know why I didn’t and don’t respond that way! Self. Undenied self!”
And as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he rose, and followed Him. Matthew 9:9.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that you want me to follow you. And thank you that you want me to deny self and take up what you have for me to do before following you. I confess how terribly slow I was in doing that in the first instance, and how I continue to be slow and reluctant. Please forgive me of all of that. And please help me. You know all of the help I need in truly being a disciple of Jesus. You lay out the requirements of denying self, taking up my cross, and following you. Please help me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.