Sunday, December 19, 2010

Suffering and Self-Denial Are Not Optional

Satan offered Jesus the splendor and power of the world: "The devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.'" (Luke 4:5-7). I believe Satan's tactics remain unchanged today. Satan similarly tempts us to pursue the fleeting treasures of this life.

Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Whoever wants to be Christ's disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow Him. Self-denial and suffering for the sake of Christ are not optional.

Jesus continues: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:24-25).

What is our treasure? Is Christ so glorious—so beautiful—that we will forsake all for His sake? And if we are unwilling do we truly know the Jesus of the Bible? I bluntly say no.

Jesus Christ is worthy of supreme, absolute devotion. He is worthy of all.

While he [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

-Mark 14:3-10

The woman recognized Jesus Christ’s surpassing greatness, and she joyfully forsook lesser treasures. Judas Iscariot, by contrast, betrayed Jesus for money. To Judas, money was a greater treasure than Jesus. He never saw Christ’s glory and he was proven a false disciple.

Knowing Jesus Christ changes us: "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him" (1 John 3:6). Jesus Christ is better than any sin, and a true disciple cannot continue sinning. That is not to say a true disciple of Christ will be without sin. 1 John 1:10 says: "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us." In our pursuit of Christ, God's grace covers our failed attempts to treasure Him.

2 Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” Treasuring Christ and beholding His glory is a work of God alone. What a humbling truth!

We are enabled to come to Christ by grace alone. In the same way, we are empowered to live a life of faith by grace alone: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

I confess I do not always treasure Christ, but oh how my heart longs for the body of Christ to hold Him as the true treasure! I long to see believers forsake the pursuits of this world for the sake of Christ and the joy of the nations. I long for Jesus to be loved with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. And so I pray, pray, pray His grace would not be without effect!

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