It's an interesting question, I think: What is the most essential aspect of discipleship?
I think Jesus said it best (no surprise, right?):
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).’”
Denial of self.
Self-denial is the key to following Christ. It’s that simple.
- Self-denial is shrinking ourselves so that Christ is made greater.
- It’s putting the needs of others ahead of our own for the sake of the Gospel.
- It’s learning (through Spirit-empowered trial and error) to truly seek the Kingdom first over and above our own comfort.
- It’s viewing our talents, passions, and experiences as resources for God to use to advance the Gospel.
Self-denial is starving our “selves.” The opposite is, of course, feeding the “self.” Feeding our ego. Feeding our pride. Feeding our sin. Feeding our me-firstness.
Discipleship is a rich relationship not a formulaic process. There is a reason it’s often compared to a journey. There are so many wonderful aspects of following Christ. But the key to experiencing these is to become increasingly adept at self-denial.
There are few truths more valuable than this.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask yourself questions similar to these:
- Do the teenagers in our ministry get this?
- Do they see self-denial modeled in their homes?
- Am I pursuing this? Is our ministry team?
- Wheat areas in my personal life am I feeding that I should be starving?