It is so much more than our ministry’s name. It is a lifestyle: a way of living that is fully gospel-centered, fully Christ-pursuing, fully letting go of ourselves. It is a radical approach to living a faith-filled life.
And it is the hardest thing you will ever do.
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 ESV)
Why is this so hard? It is so clear in this passage, so obvious. We talk about it in church all the time, so why isn’t it a reality? Why is the denial of ourselves not our top priority? If we truly love God – like we say we do – then why do we not make a greater effort to live completely for Him?
It’s because of this reality: a huge percentage of Christians do not share the gospel with others because they fear being persecuted and shamed for it. But those same people are not our biggest obstacle when it comes to personally living out our faith, and sharing our faith publicly. We are. We are the biggest obstacle. It is our own flesh that holds us back the most; that convinces us of how much safer we are when we keep to ourselves and keep our spiritual lives private. Why be uncomfortable, when we can be comfortable, right?
But that’s the problem. That’s not how God has called us to live. Our purpose is not to be comfortable, to stay in our bubbles, to hide from the world. Our purpose is to glorify God in everything we do, to pursue Him with everything we have, to share the gospel with everyone we meet. To do this, we absolutely must abandon ourselves, because we cannot be faithful to God if we are faithful to ourselves over Him.
The root of this, then, is faithfulness. In Genesis 22, we see two incredible examples of such faith: Abraham and Isaac. In this passage, Abraham was tested by God and told to take his son and offer him up as a burnt sacrifice. I want you to take note of a few insane things:
Abraham Obeyed Without Question
“Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” (Genesis 12:7a ESV)
Isaac was the offspring of Abraham, the one through whom God’s promise would be fulfilled. Yet, despite knowing this, Abraham still obeyed. God did not even give Abraham a reason for such a request as to kill his own son, yet Abraham did not question God. He simply obeyed, to the point where Isaac was bound and awaiting death. If you were Abraham, would you so willingly obey?
Isaac Obeyed Without Question
Abraham did not give Isaac any reason for what he was about to do either, yet not only did Isaac obey his father, but he trusted that God would provide. If you were Isaac, would you trust in God to provide?
God Provided a Replacement
This is the best part: God provided.
“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:9-14 ESV)
God would not call us to be faithful to Him if He were not already faithful to us. He would not ask us to take up our crosses if He had not already taken up His own. He would not ask us to crucify ourselves for His sake, if He had not already been crucified for ours.
Don’t you see? Christ was nailed to a cross; and as He hung there, He declared that “it is finished”! He was our replacement, just as the ram was Isaac’s replacement. He died the death that we could never die. He bore our sins, our brokenness, and redeemed us! He took our shame, our desire for comfort and control, our pride, our selfishness, and every one of our mistakes…He took it all, and He loves us despite it. He loves us, always.
When we choose to worship idols over Christ, He still chooses us. When we choose to lust over things of this world, He still desires us. And when we choose to pursue this world and ourselves, He still pursues us – again and again and again, without fail. Without fail, He meets us in our mess and offers us grace.
This is vital. This is so important for us to understand, because abandoning ourselves for Christ will not make any sense unless we understand who we are abandoning ourselves for. And guys, He is worthy. If we are to surrender ourselves to anything or anyone, it must be Christ. It must be Christ, because He did the very same thing for us.
This is the challenge: to abandon ourselves and to pursue Christ. To strip away the old, and embrace the new. To identify in what Christ has done for us; instead of our past, our sins, our shame, or our brokenness. The challenge is to choose Christ – every day, every hour, every minute – just as He has chosen us. The challenge is to live a life of reckless abandon.