October 3, 2018
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
131. Note how Mark carefully points out that Jesus “called the crowd to him along with his disciples.” This makes abundantly clear Jesus’ intention to make this bold call to discipleship well beyond his initial disciples.
This is very challenging teaching and yet in twenty-first century Christianity it has become so “challenge by choice” optional. I mean, Jesus didn’t intend this for everyone did he? Can’t I just believe in Jesus and everything will turn out ok? What’s this about carrying a Roman Cross and letting my own life go to follow Jesus? It sounds so extreme and hard. Surely this can’t be what he meant.
132. The Gospel is a radical solution to a catastrophic problem. Imagine if you had terminal cancer and the doctor told you all you needed to do was to “believe” in the “efficacy” of the treatment. You didn’t actually have to take the treatment—just believe in it. It’s absurd. You would go to your grave “believing” in the treatment yet never having actually been treated.
I think this is the case with so much Christianity over the past hundred years or so. We’ve wanted to reduce it to its lowest possible threshold to the point where we simply want to know if you have made a “decision.” The problem with this? Trusting Jesus is not a transaction. It is a totalizing abandonment of oneself to God. It is the shifting of the center of gravity from self determination to revolving all of life around God and his Kingdom. Where did we ever get the idea that believing something in your head or saying that you believe in the truth of something could somehow add up to following Jesus?
Allow me to pose a sobering hypothesis. You have to promise not to willfully misunderstand me, obscure my point or take this out of context. Let’s take the eternal destinies of Heaven and Hell out of the equation—just for argument’s sake. Here’s the hypothetical question: If Heaven and Hell were not part of the equation, would you still be following Jesus? If not, the chances are you are not following him now. (I’m ducking now!) ;0)
Jesus put it this way:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Do we really believe this is true? Spend some time going over those 24 words today. And the problem with lowest common denominator discipleship? It’s not discipleship.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Lord Jesus, lead me from places of mere “belief” into the depths of real faith. You are more than my doctrine. You are my Lord, alive and with me. Fill me afresh with the joy of following you because of the beauty of who you most truly are: My Lord and my God. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. For the glory of your name, Jesus. Amen.
Why are you following Jesus?
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