Cross-Bearing: Teaching People to Deny Self

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and philosopher, once said "The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world."  This same thought is expressed by Jesus himself in Mark 8:34-38.  In verse 34, Jesus says "if anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me".  (HCSB)  The death of self-centered living is the heartbeat of the gospel.  The "call" that Bonhoeffer is referring to in his quote above is call of the gospel. And if you teach the Bible on a weekly basis, this gospel call is what your people should be hearing every week.  It's the life we as believers are called to embrace.

If you ask 100 Christian what the "normal" Christian life is suppose to look like, you might get 100 different answers.  People might say things like "we should love our neighbors" or "we should go to church as much as possible" or "a Christian reads their Bible everyday".  None of these are bad answers but non of them get at the heart of what it means to live the Christian life.  This passage in Mark 8 tells us that abandoning self  and the things of this world is the essence of what it means to follow Jesus.  You exchange your dreams for His.  You stop pursuing the praise of the world and pursue holiness in stead.  You give up on your self-centered plans and you embrace God's Christ-exalting ones for your life.

The Christian life is hard, and that's an understatement.  A lot of people think that God's will for their lives is often murky and hard to discern.  Truth is that a lot of times God's will is very clear, it is just fraught with danger and sacrifice.  The Christian life will cost you.  If you ever hear a gospel that promises everything to you but demands nothing from you, then it is a false gospel. It seems reckless, but Jesus's words are clear "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it". (HCSB)

Are we willing to pray and ask God to give us the courage to live that kind of Christian life?  We will be bold enough to teach that gospel to our people?  Will we trust God enough to see our kids live that kind of life of self-abandonment for the sake of Jesus? The Bible is clear.  It's hard, but in the end, it is worth it.  Be willing to lose everything now in order to receive the eternal riches of the Kingdom later.  Sounds like a good trade off to me.


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