I have just finished a new message on Matthew 16:24-28. The words of this passage convey clearly and simply that to follow Jesus requires self denial and cross bearing. As often happens, I was forced by the truth of Scripture and the Holy Spirit to wrestle with its application in my own life. These words fall like a sledge hammer on the anvil of modern Christianity. They are crushing words in the face of “Christianity lite.”
These words seem out of place in the 21st Century church. Could they still apply in our world? Did Jesus really mean that we in this day have the same requirements to follow Him as did the disciples who first heard them? Why would I question such truth? Oh, I don’t doubt the Word of God-but in light of what is happening among those who claim to follow Him, I am forced to wonder if they mean anything today.
We live in a world of convenience. Church attendance is based on convenience and whether it fits our schedule. The average American Christian gives 2 percent of his or her income to the work of the church. Results of surveys that analyze the lifestyle of today’s Christians are staggering. Considering the divorce rate, sexual activity among youth and business ethics, little statistical difference is found between believers and nonbelievers. One author has called our form of Christianity little more than a veneer Christianity.
If we, the followers of Jesus, took His words seriously, would our lives look different? I believe they would. To follow Jesus through this desperate and decaying world would demand a change of perspective at the least. I am convinced our followship would bring us headlong into Matthew 6:33. We would be forced to consider all of life through the paradigm of His kingdom and His righteousness. Every decision and action would cause us to ask, “What would the King of my life desire?”
Some people think that following Jesus with such abandonment of personal will and desires means all of us would leave our jobs and homes and head for Africa and the mission field. While more might hear that call, I do not necessarily think that is so. I do believe it means that all Christ followers-not just pastors and missionaries-would find their places in this world through His direction rather than their own whim.
Without question, to follow Jesus would lead us to be missional people in every place God would guide us. I find it totally inconceivable that we could follow Jesus and not have a heart for the lost world around us. When we follow Jesus, it is not be long until we find ourselves showing compassion to those lost in sin. Indeed, we would be eating with sinners and winebibbers because that is what Jesus did.
I have a feeling our attitude toward the church would radically shift. After all, Jesus loved the church so much He gave his life for it. I doubt our love for the church would be influenced by a consumer mentality. It would be based on worship and mission.
Maybe you will join me in asking the Lord to help us see what it might look like if we took His words to heart. How would your life look if you denied yourself to follow Jesus? What if you took up the cross of Christ daily? Would your day take on a new dimension? Ponder it. I don’t think His words were meant only for the First Century. I think He wants all of us to take them seriously.