Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).
To those who would follow Jesus, the first thing He says is to deny yourself. Many think of this as a call to a lifestyle of endless self-denial and misery whilst we try to do the right thing. But we miss the higher truth that man was never created for self. So Jesus is asking us to deny something we were never made for in the first place so we can get back to the life God originally had in mind.
See, you were not created for “self”. Self is the language of fallen humanity, which is tuned in to station WIIFM (What’s in it for me). You were created for relationship and oneness with God. This is why the idea of a self-centered and self-seeking life is so foreign to our created purpose and therefore, something that needed to be removed.
God created you in His image and knew you before the foundation of the world. God is not asking you to deny that. Why would God ask you to deny God’s image? But all have been born into Adam and need the salvation the Second Adam brought to mankind. The main purpose of that salvation is to “seek and to save that which was lost”, meaning the image of God in man.
…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 1:25).
Romans tells us that the downward spiral of the human condition involved man exchanging the truth of God for the lie. Many translations say “a lie”, but it is actually “THE lie” in the original language. This is because God IS the truth, which in the Greek means reality. Everything outside of that is considered a lie. Therefore, THE lie is the idea that life outside of God (the self-life) is possible.
Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. Many have wanted to make Jesus into “a path, a good teacher, and someone that can help your life” instead.
But the truth remains that life is in God. To reject God is to reject life. Many people view the Christian life as a set of morals, beliefs, and principles that should be followed as opposed to a different set of morals, beliefs, and principles. This is why many do not see the need to accept Jesus as they think He is simply a figure in one of many different paths to life.
Rather, Christianity is the announcement of the true God (who IS life and truth) to His creation that all can know Him because of Jesus. Sure this involves morals, beliefs and principles, but these come as a result of encountering and knowing God. We come to know these things because of our relationship with God; we do not come to know God because of these things.
As I mentioned earlier, life outside of God just does not work. Sure people may think that they are living a good life or even living in their purpose outside of the knowledge of God. But they simply need to meet life Himself to see that what they have is based on a lie. How can we have reality apart from the person of reality (Truth)?
For this reason, I think it is futile to try to convince people that their standard of morals is wrong and ours as Christians is right. Rather, if we show them life, if we give them Jesus and not just talk about Jesus, perhaps His goodness will lead them to repentance. I am not saying we should not speak up about God’s standards, but we must never divorce them from the reality of a relationship with God. After all, the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power according to 1 Corinthians 4:20.
Something I have heard is that Christianity to too exclusive. I would say that is inaccurate. To address the issue of whether or not it is inclusive or exclusive, the first question that must be addressed is “who do you say Jesus is?” Is He THE truth or is He not? To say He is exclusive is to suggest that He is the correct answer in a biased multiple choice quiz. But when we see Him as the only One who is true, the only Giver and Redeemer of life, we realize He is wanting to include everyone in His life as He already tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9). There simply are no other choices. There is only the truth and the lie.
To those living outside of this reality, it looks like a narrow way since THE lie has manifested itself in so many forms. There are so many religions, so many philosophies and self-help methods that promise life and peace. In that sense and under that mindset, broad is the way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13). But to those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we actually realize how big He is since all life and truth are in Him. The heavens cannot contain Him. He made Heaven in the first place. In Him all things consist.
Yes there is only one Source, but it is a never-ending fountain of pleasure and purpose whereas every other well will dry up, leaving us thirsty again. This is because the self-existence is based on a lie.
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).