Our congregation has the vision to help people become followers of Jesus. This is not just a nice sentiment, but carries the weight of true conviction for those who turned their life around from out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom. It implies a change in lifestyle, however gradual.
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matt 16:24)
We have probably all read this verse many times – and scan over it as easily as we sing the songs proclaiming we will lay down everything for Jesus’ sake… Is it really that easy? Do we truly understand what it means?
I was startled this morning to read an Afrikaans translation where three options for the Greek word “aparnesastho” was given: “jouself verloen/afsweer/ontken”. These are strong terms! It can be translated with words like “renounce”, “disavow”, “contradict”. Denying yourself means to NOT do as you please, to NOT make your own wants/needs/dreams/desires the most important thing in life.
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that the modern Christian mantra has become more and more focused on our own desires and working to make them reality, because that is what God wants for us… I don’t necessarily agree… And maybe I’m missing the point, but allow me to continue this train of thought, however unpopular.
Am I willing to lay down everything, even my own life, to follow Jesus? We live in a country where we still have a great amount of religious freedom. We are not generally confronted with the choice between being killed for following Jesus, or staying alive by renouncing Him. Losing our lives in the context of this passage, to us, has a more subtle meaning.
We live in a world inundated by media that urges us to believe we need very many things to be happy and fulfilled. A nice house, nice care, nice clothes, the best in technology, phones, computers, entertainment media… Maybe you are strong enough to say, alright, I can give that up, and live with only what I need to survive…
But what if it comes to having a husband/wife, a family, a wonderful fulfilling career, the best education for myself or my children… What if the cross we take up means a life devoid of those things that we feel makes us happy? What if taking up my cross means allowing God to take me in a whole different direction than where I was wanting to go?
I am not saying we should all dive into an ascetic lifestyle! But what if all of that is taken away from you? Will you still follow Jesus with your whole heart? Will you still trust that the Father is working it all out for your benefit?
So, really, I’m inviting you to think it through with me, today. I’ve had to think it through for myself many times. And its hard to imagine what life would be like without all the stuff and people we love, without the hope of realising our dreams and desires, but maybe it is a good way to establish where your heart really is.
Our life on this earth is not a game played to gain as much as we can from it. It is an opportunity to live a life that acknowledges God’s sovereign rule, a life that pleases HIM, that gives His Word, His instruction, His direction first place.
It helps us correct our perspective when we set our minds on eternity. I would offer up everything here, however painful I’m sure it must be, to know that my eternal reward is to sit at the feet of my Lord, and behold His beautiful face forever:
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. (verse 27)
by Lise Oosthuizen