“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit his very self?” – Luke 9:23-25
A few weekends ago, Disciple Now was a life-changer for numerous students. Some were saved, others decided to submit and others dedicated to service. The weekend’s main goal was for us to grab hold of our “one charge”— to advance the kingdom of God. Advancing another’s kingdom means letting go of ours. Choosing God’s kingdom advancement as opposed to ours is a daily decision, even moment by moment.
In our groups, we really emphasized this. My co-leader Kimberly and I explained that submission isn’t a one-time act but a continuous choice to desire God’s kingdom over ours. The laying down of our kingdom is to put us in a servant’s position, because we’ve chosen to “give all [we] can give so that our banner may advance,” in the words of Les Mis.
The Bible teaches that a servant nature is learned at the cross. Jesus Christ gave up the fullest life ever lived in obedience to the Father because He knew that once sin was broken through His shedding of blood, the kingdom of God would propel forward.
Jesus gave up the right to His life…. [like, what!?] and, boy, if anyone deserved to keep His life, it’d be Him. But He suffered for a time, bearing all the jeering, mocking and humiliation of the crowd with grace in the knowledge that His obedience would atone for all mankind. His own heart beating as the Father’s, he longed for restored union with man. And union it has brought!
As Arthur McGill says in His book Suffering, “The crucifixion is…the most luminous manifestation of the Son’s real nature, for there no trace of identity by possession remains” (96).
“…no trace of identity by possession remains.” Dang. That speaks volumes to us. In light of the fact that Jesus gave Himself up, and by Paul’s encouragement to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), we should live like we don’t own ourselves. All our identity and being is caught up in the Creator, the possessor of life in Himself. We should lay our life down willingly, because it’s not ours to claim.
What is the application to all of this? Does it mean that we’re mere souls with desires that don’t matter to God? Does it mean that we’ll feel empty inside because we have to give up our lives? Does it mean that we just drop down and die?
You know my answer…
If love is the most fulfilling action, feeling and way of life, then God is love.
If God is one of the Trinity, then Jesus is also love.
If Jesus is love, then everything He did was out of love, for He was love Himself.
If the word “Christian” means “little Christ,” then we should also love.
If we love, we live the fullest life, for love is of God.
Does that make sense? The scandal of the cross is that Jesus Christ came from His perfect dwelling place into human form so that we could know how to love–how to live the fullest life by imitating Him. When we exemplify His love, others observe and see how satisfying this scandalous love is.
“Men cannot believe that having an identity within the life of God, an identity of self-offering and self-expenditure, requires their real abandonment of all their self-contained identity. They cannot believe that such an identity requires them to will their death, as the world understands death. This is the scandal of the cross” (McGill 96)