Jesus offers us a new life. The way to new life is the cross.
During the first forty years of my life, I was looking out for number one ~me. At first, I had to. I was number six of seven children growing up without a father in a very poor household in the mountains of Puerto Rico. God bless my mother for doing all she could to keep us together and providing for our needs.
When my mother was busy working, studying, cleaning or helping someone else, I had to take care of myself. By the time I was nine, I could cook, do the laundry, clean the house and garden. Being fiercely independent and committed to significance became a habit that I could not break even after I became an adult.
My independence and drive got twisted into bouts of isolation, self-centeredness, greed and selfish ambition. I could fill an eighteen wheeler U-Haul truck with all the damaged “goods” my actions caused. However, when I became a believer and follower of Jesus, He gave me a new life, a life of self-renunciation and cross bearing. I can attest that Paul’s claim is true, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV But, this new life is a daily walk and it isn’t always easy.
This is the way of Jesus Christ, the cross:
“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. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 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.’” Mark 8:34-37 NIV
The path with Christ leads not to finding and preserving our life, but to lose and offer our old life so that the new life will be found. Jesus modeled this. He revealed to his followers that the awaited Messiah was also the suffering servant in accordance with the Scriptures (c.f. Isaiah). Peter was outraged when Jesus taught that He must suffer. Peter did not like the cross; and if we are honest, neither do we.
Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus doesn’t want us to be detached observers of his passion. We are to grow in faith and understanding as we accept and participate in his suffering. By following the way to the cross, it is possible for us to understand why he had to suffer a shameful death. By following the way to the cross we understand Jesus himself.
Therefore, those who wish to follow Jesus must be prepared to make a major shift in their lives. The new life calls us to shift the center of gravity in our lives from a concern for self to reckless abandon to the will of God. This is not easy for many of us, especially for fiercely independent types like me. How is it for you?
It has been nine years since I became a believer. Surrendering control of my life is a daily choice. Inspired by Romans 12:1-2, some days I have the courage to give my all to God. I offer my body “as a living sacrifice.” Other days I find myself either drifting away or gripping the little details in an effort to secure my existence. This daily battle could get discouraging, but like Paul I plot along.
Consider Paul’s words in Romans 7:18b “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Paul was willing to admit his brokenness, but he did not give up. At the same time, he celebrated the One who delivered him and all of us from bondage, Jesus Christ our Lord. Like Paul, as we embrace the new life we become less and Jesus becomes more. We boast in our weaknesses and in the Lord.
Following Jesus means we have to get out of our comfort zone, be willing to suffer and even be shamed. The world is suffering of horrific violence, extreme poverty, injustice and broken relationships. Our allegiance to Jesus calls us to courageously step into the filth of the world to rescue those who are in bondage. Imagine a world where all self-professed Christians did this.
We are given a new life and are equipped by God to join Him in the work to make the world right: to share the good news of Jesus Christ, release the captives, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and bring peace. It is not okay for us to just visit the Church on Sunday mornings while the rest of the week we disconnect from Jesus’ work to reconcile the world. We need to do both. If we don’t do our part, not only will we miss the joy of joining the Lord in His work, but also many will continue to suffer.
I have a deep desire to share the Gospel and what Jesus is teaching me in an effort to help others grow in Christ. I believe Jesus has put this desire in my heart. Writing this blog is very scary. Being vulnerable is terrifying. But Jesus reminds me that narrow is the road that leads to life
Q. What is your story of following Jesus? How do you live out His call to “lose your life?”
- Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (307). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. ↩︎