Friday, February 14, 2014

New Life

Scripture says that I need to lose my life. 
Before I go any further let me thank Jesus for His full disclosure on this fundamental aspect of faith. He didn't mince words. He was straightforward. No campaign speech, no bait and switch. You want  to follow me? Lose you life. Get rid of it. There is no confusion here. Jesus is clear with His commands. 
So, back to losing my life. 
There are a few different ways to define lose. One is to have something taken away. Personally, I like the definition that puts it this way, "mislay something: to be unable to find something". Jesus wants me to lose my life that I've come to know so that I can never find it again. I have to throw it into a black hole. Let it slip into a great abyss. 
Essentially, I need to let my life become like my Mom's prescription sunglasses, which have ended up in the Bermuda Triangle of lost spectacles on a number of occasions  Somewhere, in the ocean and probably in some land fills, are multiple pairs of tortoise shell sunglasses with horribly scratched lenses. At one time they belonged to my Mom, but now they are lost forever.
After losing my life it is on to step two: follow Jesus so I can find a new life. 

So far I like the sounds of all this. It's a bit exciting. Sort of like a treasure hunt. I'm going to lose one thing that is flawed and eternally separated from Christ and I'm going to suddenly find a new one that is eternal and glorious! Sign me up! 
Oh, but wait a second… How will I find this new life? And when will I find it? How does this work exactly? I give up my old life and then what? Do I instantaneously get a new life that provides me with a new job, some new hobbies and a new group of church friends that get together and play Scrabble every Thursday night? When I trade out my life, do I get a prepackaged, quick-start new life that I can jump right into and enjoy?
Jesus' words in Matthew 10 provide clarity. In verse 39 He tells His disciples, "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." But right before He speaks those words He tells them this: "Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
When read together there is a deeper understanding of just what is required to find this new life. This is a life with a cross, not necessarily a six-figure job. This is a life of persecution, not a life that is guaranteed a thriving social circle. This is a life of humility, not one of fame. This is a life of service and obedient surrender
Jesus carried His cross on His back up the hill of Calvary so that He could be crucified in my place. That wasn't an enjoyable walk. It was painful and grueling. He carried a physical cross that bore not only wood and nails, but the shame, guilt and punishment of the sins of the world. He carried a cross that He didn't do a single thing to deserve. That was the most torturous cross ever placed on a man's back and it has already been carried for me.
And now He is asking that I take up my own cross and follow Him. This cross won't have to be one that leads to a physical death by crucifixion to pay for all my sins. He already took that punishment. My cross is of obedience and surrender, living my life to serve the God who saved me from eternal damnation and separation from glory.

You and I can find our lives in Jesus when we pick up our own cross and follow Him. We have to leave our old life behind. There is no way to balance both our old lives and the cross at the same time. So we have to put down the old life so we can pick up our cross. When we pick up that cross we can start following Jesus. When we follow Jesus we can be led to our new life.

The challenge in following is to not put down the cross; not sit down on a nearby rock for a breather. Jesus' walk up the hill to Calvary reminds me that He didn't stop carrying the cross and neither can I. The One I'm following never took a break, He never lamented that the cross was too heavy to continue on His journey up the hill. Jesus kept walking with that cross on His back in the face of mocking, spitting, flogging and jeers from a crowd who hated Him and relished His slow and painful demise.
I have no excuse to put down my cross when I'm following Jesus. No matter how difficult and heavy that cross may be, no matter what the conditions, I must continue forward, following Jesus to the life He has for me.

Jesus will lead you and me to a life that is far better than the old one we had to lose when we picked up that cross. Will this life be easy? Heavens no! But far, far better! Because the life Jesus has leads to an eternal relationship with our heavenly Father. God longs to invade our lives and He can do it right now if we will surrender our old lives and take up the cross of His Son.
There is a glorious life to be found and it is in the cross of Jesus. So I am going to throw off my old self, pick up my cross and follow Him into that magnificent new life.

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