25 “The person who loves his life and pampers himself will miss true life! But the one who detaches his life from this world and abandons himself to Me, will find true life and enjoy it forever!
In this passage from Scripture, Jesus is telling the crowd that following Him requires dying to ourselves or as it says in The Passion Translation, they must “detach themselves from their life.” These are challenging, countercultural, and seemingly not very comforting words! In fact, Jesus may have lost the crowd after this sermon!
What Jesus is saying is that if you love the comforts of this life above all else, you’ll miss out on the comforts of eternal life in Heaven. This life is not all there is, and we as believers especially, need to live with that eternal perspective in mind.
What idols are we placing in front of Jesus. When you get asked the question: What do you want to do in life? Do you ever simply say, “live for Jesus”. I’m not sure that’s always at the forefront of my mind – what about you?
It’s not a question to make you feel guilty, but one where I’d like to challenge our thinking about where is Jesus when we consider ourselves. Is He at the heart of all we do, all the decisions we make? Is His desire for you to be a part of His body, represented by the local church, something that we place any importance on?
Is money your idol – needing to see as many zeros as you can on your play-slip? Is your hobby your idol, where meeting your friends or doing that thing, takes precedence over attending regularly or serving in church?
In and of themselves, neither of those things I’ve listed are wrong, of course they’re not! Making money is a great thing and I pray that every single one of you has what you need and more so you can enjoy it and bless others. Hobbies are great, and we need places and times to relax and enjoy what we love.
But the question is: Do they distract or pull us away from Jesus and church community? Because we can’t always do what we want if it’s in the way of embracing Jesus and living out our life according to His ways.
“Following Christ is not one’s golden ticket to a western culture dream. It’s an invitation to die, to pick up a cross.” – Brett McCracken (Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community. Crossway, 2017.)
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C.S. Lewis (“Answers to Questions on Christianity,” God in the Dock, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970)
What McCracken and Lewis are both getting at in these quotes, is that it’s easy to find basic happiness and comfort, but living the Christian life and being part of a church community requires making sacrifices that may feel uncomfortable, but ultimately will help us to become more like Jesus. It’s a trade-off that’s always worth it.
And here’s what I think that trade-off is:
I mentioned in an earlier post that my personal preference for very nearly not wanting to be with a bunch of people that have a different perspective of what being a Christian is almost drove me away from committing to the local church – that is, Freedom Church (the church I presently lead). I thought ‘speaking in tongues’ was something we probably shouldn’t do and that preference could have made me walk away.
I think this is a surface level preference and one amongst many consumeristic choices that stop us from committing because we’re determined to find the perfect church, or rather the church that suits our needs.
But there’s a deeper level, one that involves us choosing to be vulnerable and to be authentic, and this is the one that scares us, it’s not just a personal preference. It scares us because to commit to a local church at this level demands that we allow others into our heart, and as we let others into our hearts, we reveal our less-than-perfect nature. Our outer shell has been broken and people can peer inside.
The trade-off for this access is fantastic though. As we let people in, we allow ourselves to be authentic, and this relieves so much pressure to perform and to pretend. We can finally relax and be who God has made us to be and become who Jesus has seen that we can be, just like the impulsive Peter from the Bible that I mentioned in a previous post in this series.
When we stop running from people and embrace people with all their idiosyncrasies, we become a happier and more joyful people. Sure, as humans, there’s a risk of hurt, of rejection even. There’s a quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson which I believe is applicable in this case: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” There’s always a chance that people will hurt us if we let them in and maybe even stuff to lose, but if we let other Christian brothers and sisters in there is so much more to gain.
At this point, let me remind you that there is, in fact, one person that we can let in fully and know that He will never reject us, or forsake us and His name is Jesus.
The Church, represented through the local church, is the Body of Christ. We are connected to the head which is Christ, and if we all genuinely desire to become more like Him, then our chance of hurt and rejection from other parts in the body become less and less and indeed should be pretty much impossible. For example: How can an eye reject a head, or a hand reject a finger, We are all hugely important to the whole, and together, accepting one another, along with the Holy Spirit we can achieve anything!
What if we gave up the “dream church”?
What if we stopped trying to find fault with our Christian community and instead embraced the discomfort?
In order to know God and be known well, and deeply loved by His people, we must reject the consumerist church-hunting mindset and encourage others to do so. We need to lay down our personal preferences and enter into the awkwardness of being part of a community that actually needs more than just our Sunday attendance.
Ultimately we all need to die to our own desires – just like Jesus did.
*This series of blog posts are based on a sermon series delieverd by me at Freedom Church in March 2018. In turn, this series is based on a book: Uncomfortable by Brett McCracken. You can view part #1 of the sermon series below: