Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Following is a Choice
Then Jesus told His disciples, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
Good morning Prayer Team!
Today’s Scripture verse occurs in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. In all three passages, the accounts before and after this verse show Jesus at the height of His popularity, if you will. He was performing miracles and preaching in front of large crowds. Then Jesus said this statement—“If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) The journey of a disciple, He is telling us, is not one of fun and fanfare. It is not one of popularity or large crowds. It is not even a journey filled with miracles. Rather, it is a journey of surrender—those who follow deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow.
Before we discuss denying ourselves, taking up the cross and following (that is the next reflection), it is important to note that the journey of a disciple is a journey by choice. No one is compelled to be a disciple. It is a choice.
The use of the word “if” is very intentional. Because saying “If anyone would come after me,” Jesus left open the possibility that there will be some who won’t make that choice.
The choice to follow, as we have discussed before, is a very personal one. We can’t become disciples because of our parents. Rather, we have to personally answer the call to join and to follow. And the choice to follow is a daily choice. We don’t decide to follow one time for all time. Rather we must choose to follow on a daily basis, sometimes even more than once on the same day. Every time we have a temptation, or a choice to do something that goes against God, there is a choice to make. Being a disciple is something that requires action on a continual basis. If the ultimate job of the disciple is to bring others to Christ, the first job of the disciple is to choose Christ. For we cannot encourage others to choose Christ if we are not choosing Him ourselves. We cannot bring others to Christ if we are not with Christ. And we cannot lead others to Christ if we are not being led by Christ.
It all starts with a choice to intentionally follow. I use the word “intentionally” because there are lots of things we “follow” but as we follow as are almost on auto-pilot. For instance, we may choose to stand in line at the grocery store. And while standing there we can be thinking of a thousand things that don’t involve shopping. Usually while in line, I’m doing something on the phone. I am following the line, so to speak, but my mind is elsewhere. I will be hoping the time passes quickly so I can be on to something else.
The choice to intentionally follow is NOT like the line at the store. To intentionally follow means that we are “engaged” in Who we are following and what we are following. Our hearts, our minds and our bodies are in sync, as we match Godly thoughts to Godly actions. The choice to follow is also done with patience, a sense of purpose, even deliberateness. We don’t follow quickly, haphazardly or flippantly. The choice to follow is intentional and purposeful.
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies. .For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose. He himself shall abide in prosperity and his children shall possess the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn Thou to me, and be gracious to me; for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh guard my life, and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in Thee. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. Psalm 25
Make an intentional choice to follow Christ today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Be Still with God
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