“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25, ESV)
I’m spoiled rotten.
I live in a country where I enjoy an abundance of freedom. I can worship as I choose. I can select my vocation and avocations. I’m allowed to have avocations!Travel is unrestricted (except by road construction!). I am free to express my opinions, written and verbally. The government will not arrest, torture or execute me because I voice disagreement with its policies. I am not so naïve as to think that things are this way everywhere. I know otherwise.
But the spoiled attitudes I have inherited as a result of my freedoms have infiltrated, infused, and infected my faith from the start. The “American Dream” tells us that we can have it all. All of the commercials on television are about products and services that we deserve, and that will raise our quality of life. After all, what could possibly be wrong about taking care of Number One?
Becoming a Christian seems to be the next logical step, right? If there are benefits to being “in,” then sign me up! Salvation is a free gift, and God does want to bless us, but life as a disciple of Jesus is not easy.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhöffer wrote, “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with having things or experiencing pleasantries in this life. But I expect that I am not alone when it comes to being guilty of enjoying God’s presence only when it’s convenient to me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who puts God in a box, who gives him restricted access to the halls and rooms of my life. Certainly there’s someone else who gave his heart to Jesus while maintaining a firm grip on the control of his “actual” life.
Jesus made salvation easy. But He never minced words about what life as a disciple entails. We have instant access to relationship with God through the most counterintuitive avenue the world has ever seen. Jesus died to make it so. But, while Heaven has no cover charge, there are still house rules. But they are not a list of don’ts that are posted on the wall.
Instead, we are asked to surrender our own right to govern our lives. It’s when we try to hold on to that right that we start to get into trouble. If we are our own priority, if we are concerned about our “rights,” if we place more value on our lives than on obedience to Christ, we are desperately trying to save our own lives.
We can’t do it. It’s not even possible.
The sooner we realize that the moment of our salvation was the moment we placed ourselves on our own cross, the moment we gave up our right to self-government, and the moment that we chose to follow Jesus wherever, whenever and however He might lead us, the sooner we can stop fighting against the Holy Spirit and find our new life in Christ.
Our scripture passage is just one more in a list of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. After decades in the faith I am really starting to understand this one. I’m far from allowing these verses to be my guide in life, although I am moving in the right direction.
Spend some quality time over the course of this next week in prayerful consideration of these verses. Let them take root in you and force out any “spoiled attitudes” you might have allowed to infect your faith walk.
These are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Image by manseok Kim from Pixabay