Quite often, we open our Bibles, read a text, look for something to warm our hearts, and then go about our day.
But, if we truly read the words that Jesus said, it won’t necessarily warm our hearts. It will radically change the way we think and live.
Jesus’ words don’t call us to tweak our thinking and behavior. He calls us to think and act in a way that is often diametrically opposed to what comes naturally to us. He calls us to live radically.
For instance, the thought of suffering is unpleasant to us. The thought of death is entirely unpleasant. If someone was suffering through a health malady and a surgery or medication helped them, we might hear someone say that God is so good and gracious. If someone escaped a near-death accident, we might hear the same thing. Yet, if the health malady continues or someone’s life is taken in a tragic accident, we find ourselves questioning why God would allow such a thing.
Simply put, we typically credit God when good things happen but we question God when bad things happen.
If we sit at the feet of Jesus, we realize that such thinking is not God-centered. It is worldly and man-centered. Listen…
Matthew 16:21–23 (ESV) “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'”
Did you hear what Jesus said to Peter? He said that God’s perfect will required suffering and death. Peter felt that those things should be avoided and could not be God’s will for Jesus. Yet, Jesus made it clear that Peter’s longing for a pleasant, peaceful life was man-centered, not God-centered. He even went so far as to say that Peter’s thinking originated with Satan.
Jesus’ words didn’t stop there. After saying that it was God’s will for Him to suffer and die, He continued…
Matthew 16:24–26 (ESV) “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. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?'”
Jesus clearly said that following Him meant that this life would require saying “no” to our self-centered desires (denying ourselves), submitting to God’s authority (taking up our cross), and do as Jesus has said (following Him).
Doing so might cause us to have a difficult life. It may require suffering for Jesus or even facing a premature death. But, if we fail to follow Jesus to avoid those things, we only demonstrate that we are living for this temporal life and forfeiting eternal life.
Certainly we shouldn’t desire suffering and death. Our sanity should be questioned if we pursued it.
But to follow Jesus, not simply by calling ourselves a Christian but in doing what He commands, may cause difficulty and suffering in our life. In some contexts, it may mean that we are killed for our faith.
Following Him means that we say “no” to our man-centered desires, submit to God’s authority, and do as Jesus has commanded. Whatever happens, happens. And that’s OK because we aren’t living for this life anyway. We are citizens of Heaven and are ultimately living for the next one.
This is the radical Christianity that Jesus calls us to. In fact, it is the only true version of Christianity.
So, friend, are you living for this life or the one the come? Is following Jesus worth the difficulties it will create in this life? If you are truly a Jesus-follower, your answer is clear.
(Feel free to leave a comment or question below.)