Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23 NIV
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? A disciple is a follower, or student, of a teacher. A disciple learns from his teacher. But even more significantly, they will seek to model their life and beliefs around those of their teacher. So a disciple of Jesus is a person who listens to what Jesus says and seeks to put his teachings into practice, modeling their life after him.
But, as Jesus warns his disciples in this verse, discipleship is not easy. It involves self denial. If I am going to follow Jesus, I cannot follow the leading of my own human nature. And I have to take up my cross, not just once, but daily. I have to die to self, if I am going to live for him. And that dying to self is an ongoing process. As long as I live in the flesh, my human nature will draw me away from discipleship and into selfishness.
Discipleship is hard, but Jesus calls all of us to be true disciples. Many are content simply to be fans of Jesus, sitting in the stands and cheering him on, but never joining him in the huddle. But simply being a fan of Jesus, rather than a disciple, will gain you nothing, and will ultimately end in eternal ruin. Instead, choose to be a disciple, denying self, taking up your cross daily, and following him.