It’s the greatest invitation ever given, a greatly compelling recruitment speech: Jesus said to come and die. He told everyone who followed Him that if they continued to do so they would face persecution. To sweeten the pot He informed them that they would become homeless, rejected by their families and in the end be put to death. Can’t you just see the people rushing to sign up? But this is the call of Christ, to come and die.
Are you willing to give up everything you own for the cross of Christ? Are you ready to die for the sake of pursuing His mission? Would you pursue Him without promise of any reward for yourself? A life spent following Christ is a life full of risk and adventure. We risk what we perceive to be safety in this world for the sake of knowing Him and continuing the mission to which He calls us. In a “me first” generation, sacrificing our own lives for the sake of another is a foreign concept. If we are going to lay everything on the line, we expect a certain return on our investment. But that’s not how the Kingdom of God works. To be a true follower of Jesus, we must give up everything we are solely for the chance to know Him better. Christ is the reward, and to receive it we ultimately must die.
Most of us in the United States have grown up being taught to pursue the American dream. We are expected to acquire material goods to prove our success. Possessions are tangible items that make it a simple matter to measure our progress against that of another. In the race to achieve higher and higher goals while gaining more and more goods, we ignore the very simple message of the Gospel. Jesus said that to find Him, we must lose ourselves. If we are to gain life with Him, we must first die to ourselves (Luke 17:33). Anyone who is living for themselves can never truly love those around them. If we don’t love others, we can’t love Christ (1 John 4:20).
In the Western world, Christianity has come to be synonymous with prosperity and success. For many years, this bad theology has been propounded to the masses and is now accepted as gospel in many circles. The teaching is false and not found in the Bible. The Israelites were told if they would follow all of God’s statutes then they would prosper in their land (Deuteronomy 5:33). That’s about as close as one gets to Biblical approval of the so- called “prosperity gospel”. However, which one of us has succeeded in obeying all of God’s commands? We all have fallen short and missed the mark (Romans 3:23). This is why Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for us. Without His blood and His resurrection, we would all be hopelessly lost. With our sinful tendencies we cannot perfectly keep the law of God. It is only by the grace of Jesus that we have hope of eternal life with Him.
By coming to die, Jesus set the example for us. He did not turn away from the cross that was set before Him, but rather He embraced it knowing that through His sacrifice, many would live. As followers of Jesus, we have the same call on our lives today. Life is not about what we can acquire or how successful we might become. Rather, it is about sacrificing ourselves for the good of others. It is about setting aside our own ambitions so that everything we do might point back to God and bring glory to Him. Our lives are to be lived for a single purpose, the opportunity to reflect the love and beauty of Jesus Christ to a world in desperate need of the truth. If we will live with Jesus Christ being our only goal, then we will achieve true fulfillment; we will receive His blessing on our life and His mercy at our death. Along the way we may be asked to give everything we own away; we may face persecution and watch those we love be taken from us. Following Jesus is dangerous because we are warring with the powers of darkness. To those who choose this path, to those who persevere, there is light and there is life. If we would follow Jesus then we must embrace our death. Jesus said to come and die. Is He worth it to you?