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How Can I Grow Closer to God?

Lysa TerKeurst

Day: 13 | Plan: Luke

Today’s Reading: Luke 9:1-27

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.’” 

The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus. Or so it seemed …

Family. Friends. Jobs. The comforts of home. 

Yet, in our passage today, we find Jesus telling them that the cost is going to be even higher than they had originally anticipated.

First He reveals what is ahead for Him personally—“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” (Luke 9:22).

Then He explains the cost of continuing to be one of His followers—“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

The disciples aren’t being asked to lay down some things. They are going to need to lay down everything. Their plans. Their agendas. Maybe even their own lives.

And I love Jesus’ timing in breaking this news to them. I love the “when” of this deeper call. It takes place after they go through towns, “proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere” (Luke 9:6). It comes after they witness the miraculous feeding of the 5,000. (Luke 9:10-17) It comes after His question about who they believe He is—to which Peter declares Jesus is the Messiah. (Luke 9:18-20)

So they have seen Him. They have experienced Him. They have been used mightily by Him. They know the One they have been following is no ordinary man. And because of their willingness to continue following hard after Him, they will get to experience a level of closeness with Him unlike anyone else.

Closeness when they take communion with Him before He is crucified. (Luke 22:12-20)

Closeness when He bends low to wash their feet. (John 13:1-17)

Closeness when He eats with them after His resurrection. (Luke 24:36-43)

Closeness when they are among the first to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)

Not only did they have the promise of eternity with Him in heaven, they would also have the privilege of experiencing unparalleled intimacy with Him on earth.

Could they have received any sweeter gift?

This is what my heart hungers for when it comes to the Lord. I want connection. I want communion. I want closeness. Not only in a distant heavenly future but right here. Right now.

That’s why I’m so thankful Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in Luke 9:23 is for us too. We are also invited close. Which means we are also called to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

But what does this look like in today’s culture?

For me it has meant breaking old habits to create space in my heart for new growth. It has meant moving beyond a plastic Christian checklist … Go to church. Read the Bible. Don’t cuss. Be nice. Pray. Give to the poor … and letting God mess with any and every area of my life. It has meant things like offering Him my willingness to step away from TV for a season, fixing my eyes on Him first in the morning instead of my phone and allowing Him to call me to a new level of discipline in my eating habits. Things I have said “yes” to because I long for an ever closer walk with Him.

I don’t know exactly what following wholeheartedly after God will look like for you. But I do know that if we want to grow closer to God, we’ll have to distance ourselves from whatever is distracting us. We’ll have to lay aside whatever we are prone to delight in more than Him.

Let’s ask God what distraction we need to distance ourselves from in order to grow closer to Him, and then let’s do the hard and holy work of denying ourselves. Because a deeper level of intimacy with Him will always be worth the cost.

Prayer: Lord, I confess to You today that I often cling too tightly to the things of this world. But I know deep down in my heart that You are the greatest treasure. I know that You and You alone can satisfy every longing in my heart. Show me what is standing in the way of intimacy with You and give me the strength to lay it down—for a season or maybe even forever. I long to be closer to You. No matter the cost. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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