The Prison Break From Sin
If you really look at what your “self” offers in terms of goodness, asking us to die to ourselves is actually a rescue mission. It’s a prison break.
If I’m being honest, I can’t remember what life was like before Jesus. There wasn’t a big moment of sacrifice where choosing Jesus meant turning my back on family, opportunities or dreams. For me, choosing Jesus was going with the flow. It was choosing tradition and heritage. I’m thankful for the way I was raised—learning to love him without really knowing another option—but sometimes it’s easy for me to read over passages like this and feel a disconnect. Not to say that I’ve always followed Jesus well, or even at all in some moments throughout my life, but more to say that I when I read passages like Luke 14:25-34, it’s easy to picture the conversion stories of everyone else but me. I think of new believers in other cultures, pondering for months or years whether or not Jesus is truly worth it, knowing that the moment they accept his invitation to be a part of his family, they become no longer welcome in their own. I think of children who come from hostile homes where religion is for the weak and naive, yet they choose to claim Jesus recognizing that along with that choice comes ridicule, isolation or even abuse. These situations are the reality for many, but before I skim these seemingly harsh words of Jesus and read on to the famous story of the lost sons, I think there is something to be found here for me, and maybe you, in the everyday journey of discipleship.
For although there are risks and consequences at the moment you choose Jesus for the first time, it doesn’t end there. Discipleship is a process. It is following Jesus in order to be transformed to look and speak and act like him. Therefore, there is not one cost, one decision, one step we take that must be weighed and calculated, it’s an everyday discipline of considering the cost.
And the cost is this—Jesus must come first. period.
Discipleship is not something to be taken lightly. It is a call to die. It’s a call to go against everyone and everything, if necessary. If we choose to be followers of Jesus — a crucified Lord — then we cannot be surprised when we are asked to take up crosses as well.
There is another option. Do what we want. Live as we please. Seeking comfort or control. Avoiding pain or hard things. Choosing to do or obtain things that make us feel good, important, or cool.
But I’ve come to realize that this is actually not the safe or comfortable route. It may seem simple to choose or slide into, but think of who you are without Christ. If you are like me and you have never known yourself without knowing Christ, think of the things he has already begun to transform in your life. Think of your weaknesses, the places and pieces of your life and heart where you are prone to wander, think of the death grip Evil seems to always have on corners of your mind. Think of the reactions, responses or coping mechanisms that seem embedded into your core, and think of what it would be like if those things controlled you, if you had no power outside yourself to resist those things, if your own fickle heart and broken mind were your masters.
Asking us to die to ourselves, to carry our cross, might seem like a harsh request from Jesus. But if you really look at what your “self” offers in terms of goodness, asking us to die to ourselves is actually a rescue mission. It’s a prison break. It’s a release from the cycles of sin and brokenness and pain that we are prone to continue in should ourselves be given the position of ruler.
Luke paints a picture of a king going into battle and seeking peace with a stronger rival. Dying to ourselves is surrendering to a greater ruler, not one who is vindictive or power hungry, but rather a ruler who is gracious. One who desires that we be free from the destruction of sin. One who desires so much goodness for us. Not safety, comfort or ease, but goodness, wholeness, holiness. One who, in his boundless wisdom, knows the best way to bring about the goodness he desires. And one who holds so much power that he not only wants goodness for us and knows how to bring it about, but actually has the ability to make it a reality.
We will have to choose Jesus over everything. Over our family. Over our careers. Over our nation. Over our dreams. Over our desires for significance, security, approval, affection, comfort and control.
But when we choose Jesus, when we prioritize time in the presence of God, when we feed our souls with his words and allow his voice to be the loudest in our lives, He will change us into people who have joy—a joy unaffected by physical circumstances. He will make us people who live with hope—a hope that is unshaken even in the darkest moments of despair. He will form us to be people who are grounded so deeply in love—a love that transforms our entire understanding of our own identity as well as the identity of humanity as a whole. And he will transform us into people who breathe easy resting in peace—a peace that flows as a continuous current, a readily available, life-giving foundation.
There are risks. They may feel daunting. But the cost of discipleship with Jesus is oh so worth it.