Requirements for a True Disciple of Christ | Mark 8:34
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
News of Jesus’s presence in Caesarea Philippi had apparently spread, because a crowd was gathering. Peter had called Jesus aside (v. 32), so the crowd kept its distance. Now, Jesus calls everyone over to Himself; the words He’s about to speak are not for Peter’s benefit alone, but for all who have a personal desire to call themselves disciples of Christ. What are the requirements of discipleship?
A true disciple must deny self. One cannot unwaveringly follow Christ and his own agenda, so the true disciple ceases to make himself the focus of his own life. This does not refer to ascetic practices, such as ceasing from bathing or taking on a vow of poverty. Rather, it means to renounce sin, love for the world, and any self-righteousness.
A true disciple must die to self. This doesn’t mean to simply keep the faith in rough times. To take up a cross in the ancient world meant one thing—death— and Luke emphatically adds “daily.” Every day, one must be willing to follow Christ, no matter what. Jesus warns that the world will hate Christians (Jn 15:18–20), and we’re told to expect animosity from the lost world (2 Tm 3:12). True disciples have counted this as a possible cost of following Christ (cf. Lk 14:27–33).
A true disciple must direct self. The third requirement of discipleship here describes personal, present effort to follow Christ. In other words, when Christ’s Word identifies a particular sin, a possible disciple should understand that he will have to follow Him away from it. Christ must be of all-surpassing worth to the true disciple, meaning that he’ll deny his desire to fulfill himself, die to his former way of life, and choose to follow Christ.
Thankfully, this is all the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s regenerative and sanctifying work! Good works cannot save us (Eph 2:8–9; Ti 3:5–7), but Jesus He knows His sheep and promises that they hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:27). Our following gives us assurance that we’ve come to know Christ (1 Jn 2:3–6).