Two Bible Verses
Famous… John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Not so famous – at least to me…Luke 9:23 (NIV) Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
A friend mentioned to me; devotional she had read, by Kyle Idleman, author of Not a Fan. I’ve posted the devotional below. Maybe I need to read Kyle’s book!
The journey from fan to follower begins by identifying the fan within us. To help us do that we have stepped into the scenes of different encounters Jesus had with people during His time on earth. Inevitably Jesus would put them in a position where they had to define their relationship with Him. Was it casual or committed?
Many of them were exposed to be nothing more than fans, just enthusiastic admirers of Jesus at best. It’s not that fans don’t want a relationship with Jesus; it’s that they want the relationship with him on their terms. The real question we must ask is this:
What kind of relationship does Jesus want to have with us? That’s what matters. What are His terms? What would He say it really means to follow Him?
Chances are, if you have one verse of the Bible memorized it would be John 3:16. It’s a great verse that tells us a beautiful truth. Quick, can you say it without looking? I’ll make it fill-in-the-blank to help you out.
For God so __________________ the __________________ that he gave His only __________________, that whosoever __________________ in Him will not perish but have __________________ life.
There is a reason why that is the most often quoted verse of the Bible. (One survey showed the most memorized verse in the Bible was “God helps those who help themselves.” Umm… that was Benjamin Franklin.)
In that one verse we read that God loves us, Jesus died for us, and that we can have eternal life through Him. It’s not unusual to go to a sporting event of some kind and see someone holding up a sign that says “JOHN 3:16.” (My favorite sign held up at a game read, “The guy behind me can’t see.”) But I’ve never seen someone hold up a sign that says “LUKE 9:23.” Quick, say that one without looking. That may be a little tougher. But Luke 9:23 also records the words of Jesus. In fact, unlike John 3:16, these words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 are recorded in three of the four Gospels. Here they are:
If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Now do you understand why no one paints that on a board and holds it up at a game? It doesn’t seem like a very appealing advertisement for Christianity. Verses like that one can make it difficult to recruit new Christians.
But the truth is that John 3:16 and Luke 9:23 have to go together in order for there to be an accurate understanding of the gospel’s invitation. John 3:16 emphasizes believing. Luke 9:23 focuses on following. Those two things must necessarily go together. There is no believing without following. There is no John 3:16 without Luke 9:23.
In this passage Jesus clearly lays out His expectations of His followers. This verse defines the relationship Jesus wants to have. It spells out His terms so that we can know exactly what we are agreeing to when we make a decision to follow.
Anyone Means Everyone
Jesus begins His call to follow Him with these two words, If anyone…
Anyone is a significant word because it makes it clear whom He is inviting. He is inviting anyone. Anyone is an all-inclusive word. Anyone means everyone. Jesus doesn’t begin with a list of pre-qualifications.
His invitation to follow is addressed to Anyone. Many people don’t realize they’ve been invited to follow. They think, “Not after what I’ve done. He wouldn’t want me to follow him. I would never make the cut.” They assume they aren’t qualified and as a result never take seriously what it means to follow Jesus. After all, what’s the point in filling out an application if you know you won’t get approved?
But the words of Jesus are words full of grace. He says, “Follow Me.” You think, “There must be a mistake. Doesn’t He know who I am? Doesn’t He know what I’ve done?” Yeah, He knows about the stains. In fact, He died on the cross so that our stains could be washed clean, whiter than snow actually. And because of His grace, we find ourselves at the same crossroads as Matthew.
The invitation of Jesus to follow him begins, “If anyone…”
It turns out that Anyone means Anyone.
Anyone means me. Anyone means you.
Watch the Video
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]
9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heavenexcept the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
Jesus Predicts His Death
21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”