To those who’ve made comfort and pleasure their gods, routinely squeezing faith and spiritual disciplines where and when they fit, He’d ask:
Did you forget the call to “die?” Perhaps in today’s evangelical culture, with its tendency to dazzle and entertain, no one told you what aligning your life with Mine, surrendering to Me, means. Though I’m with you as your ever-present teacher and guide, I’m not an intermittent caricature that pops onto your shoulder when you need periodic advice. And though I’m responsive to your needs and alert to your cries, I’m not your supernatural wish-granter.
Jesus is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all things. As co-creator, He’s ruler over all, mankind included. Though He’s “gentle and humble at heart” (Matthew 11:29), Scripture also calls him the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5)—fierce, powerful, and kingly. But more than that, He’s Adonai (Romans 5:1), Lord and Master, the One who gave His life so that we might live. Then, once, through faith, we receive His Spirit within, He gives us the strength to follow His example; He gives us the strength to die. To “crucify” everything that attempts to take up Christ’s rightful place in our hearts, to intentionally, prayerfully, and consistently give Him free reign.
In Luke chapter 9, shortly after telling His disciples of His upcoming death and resurrection, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NIV). I’ve heard many call their temporary challenges the “cross they bear.” And while I won’t devalue their difficulties, Jesus’ words went much deeper. He spoke to those who, routinely, saw condemned men and women literally carrying their cross to their death. This was one of the most horrific, public, and shameful executions possible where the person was stripped of their clothing, flogged, paraded past gawkers, then nailed to a wooden pole and left to die. This is the image Christ’s original audience would’ve immediately conjured upon hearing His words in Luke 9. The impact would have been multiplied exponentially the minute they saw Jesus, God’s anointed Son, breathe His last.
God doesn’t call us to a life of comfort where we love and serve when it’s most convenient and pick and choose what truths to follow. He calls us to surrender all, to “die to ourselves” so that He can work in and through us. Though this is the hardest, and at times most painful, choice we’ll ever make, it’s also the surest route to peace and abundant life.
As Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose their very self?” (Luke 9:25, NIV). The person they were created to be.
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