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.’
Here is the problem with the quote from Jesus above:
1.) We over-spiritualize it
2.) We disregard it
3.) We disdain it and avoid it at all costs
4.) We take it to mean that we must be willing to sacrifice for Jesus.
Matt 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.
CAUTION! Hang on to your bloomers… this blog post is going to be as blunt as I can possibly get in order to attempt getting through to you, my readers (all ten of you!).
I honestly believe that when we read passages (like those above) about the Lord’s call for us to follow Him that we really don’t get it. That’s also true when we hear these things preached or written about. That’s why my prayer for this blog post is that your eyes (spiritual) and ears (spiritual) would be opened to truly hear what our Lord is saying. Are these statements important? Yes! In fact they are everything!
So Lord Jesus, I ask that those who will read this post will be touched by your Spirit to see and hear these things as perhaps for the first time. Lord, may they not think: “oh yeah, I know that!” but instead humbly (like a child) receive what you have said as if they had never heard (or read) it before. And Lord, may it cause a complete revolution to take place in their hearts and within your Body throughout the world. Amen
You might think I’m crazy, but I honestly believe that I can boil down the problems within Christianity and among most Christians today in one simple statement.
We don’t really believe what Jesus and the New Testament writers said!
That’s because if we did, then our lives would be very different than a typical Christian of today. We would be radical, even revolutionary people. Instead, what we see around us today is this insipid, anemic, lukewarm version of so-called Christianity. For the most part, a people who are not willing to lose anything, let alone their very lives!
I can speak this way because I have been a believer for over 43 years and have seen a lot of Christians in that time. My wife and I have been working for 25 years of that time to help start and plant something we call “organic” churches. And in that time I can honestly say that I believe I have the main problem with believers who are attempting to return to a genuine, authentic, New Testament expression of the church.
They are just not willing to lose their lives!
And yet Jesus said that you could not even be a follower of his unless you were willing to lose your own life. But I ask you dear brothers and sisters: IF WE ARE NOT EVEN FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST YET HOW CAN WE BE HIS CHURCH?
Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone is desiring to come after me, let him” forget self and lose sight of his own interests, and let him pick up his cross and carry it, and let him be taking the same road with me that I travel, for whoever is desiring to save his soul-life shall ruin it, but whoever will pass a sentence of death upon his soul-life for my sake, shall find it. For what will a man be profited if he gain the whole world but forfeit his soul-life. Or, what shall a man give as an exchange for his soul-life? For the Son of Man is about to be coming in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall recompense to each one according to his manner of acting.” (Matthew 16:24) (Wuest)
But whatever things were to me a gainful asset, these things I have considered a loss when it comes to my acquisition of Christ, and still so consider them. Yes, indeed, therefore, at least, even I am still setting all things down to be a loss for the sake of that which excels all others, my knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord which I have gained through experience, for whose sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I am still counting them dung, in order that Christ I might gain, yes, in order that I might in the observation of others be discovered by them to be in Him, not having as my righteousness that righteousness which is of the law, but that righteousness which is through faith in Christ, that righteousness which is from God on the basis of faith. Yes, for His sake I have been caused to forfeit all things, and I count them but dung, in order that I might come to know Him in an experiential way, and to come to know experientially the power of His resurrection and a joint-participation in His sufferings, being brought to the place where my life will radiate a likeness to His death, if by any means I might arrive at the goal, namely, the out-resurrection from among those who are dead. (Philippians 3:7) (Wuest)
As I hope that you can clearly see, all of these statements hinge upon one thing: A LIFE LAID DOWN!
If our individual relationship with God is hinging upon us laying down our lives then how could we ever think that His Church would operate by any other principal?
People all over are asking for “organic church” life but they haven’t even totally given their lives to the Lord yet! I ask you, how can this work? It can’t, it can’t, it most absolutely cannot!
The Great Contradiction
As I stated earlier in this post, my wife and I have been working in the area of helping and planting organic churches. We have noticed a very strange phenomenon concerning this. Many of the people who are helped by us in the churches we plant and others who hear or read about our work make statements such as those below:
- “I really appreciate all that you have done to help us”
- “You folks have sacrificed a lot to help us”
- “We really honor and look up to you because of your sacrificial service”
- “You have given up so much to do this work, thank you!”
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, we really appreciate these statements made by precious believers where we have worked. We take their love and encouragements to heart in every way. There is a special and strong bond between us. We thank the Lord for that every day!
However, there is also something very strange about all this …
We are not special Christians! We are just “normal” Christians.
Yes, we have laid down our lives for the Lord and His House. But that is just what a normal believer does! Now, not everyone is called to his work of planting churches, traveling, preaching, etc.
- But we are ALL called to follow Him completely by giving up our lives and living His life.
- We are ALL called to forsake all to follow Him.
- We are ALL called to take up His interests and His purpose and lay down all of our ideas, dreams, hopes, agendas, programs, wants, and even needs.
- We are ALL called to take up His all-encompassing interest which is His Church!
- We are ALL called to go wherever and do whatever He needs for His eternal purpose (the expression of Christ in His Body).
In other words: A true follower of Christ is someone who has given up all rights to himself and his/her own desires, wishes, dreams, and goals. That’s just a normal Christian.
But we are so used to living a sub-standard Christian life that we actually believe that those who are “sold out” for Christ are either fanatics or called to the ministry!
But wait! Our Lord Jesus even went beyond that!
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s. (Matt 16:23)
Do you “see” it? Do you “get” that? Here our Lord makes such a terrible and frightening statement that our minds tend to either blot it out or minimize the statement.
Let me put it in other words.
Jesus is telling Peter here that because he is setting his mind on man’s interests (his own) and not on God’s, he is not only a stumbling block to Christ, but he is also functioning by the life of Satan, the enemy of God!
Folks, I really don’t know how it could be stated any clearer: When we put our own interests above that of Christ and His Church we are a satanically inspired stumbling block to Him!
You see, it’s either going to be your life or His! Both will never work and will actually work against God’s purpose. That’s why the Lord told us to leave all to follow Him. That’s why He told us to deny (literally: to disown) our lives. Organic church won’t work if you try to retain your own life! It will end up being some watered-down version of the true expression of Christ. It may be better than institutional church in some ways but it will not be what the Lord wants or live up to His own vision and passion.
When we come to plant a new organic church we always tell the believers that they will need to clear their schedules and simplify their lives. We also tell them that the Church cannot be just a adjunct (add-on) to their lives. THE CHURCH MUST NOW BE THEIR LIVES! The biggest hindrance to organic church life is not the devil, the religious system, or even your background.
The biggest hindrance to true organic church life is your own life!
I get people coming to me all the time wanting to join an existing organic church in their town. They tell me that they have earnestly wanted this life for many years and are willing to do whatever it takes to find it. When I tell them that I don’t know of any such churches in their town but that I do know of churches in other cities then they begin to make excuses why they could never relocate to another town or state. I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t have much compassion for believers in this condition. They say one thing with their mouths but their hearts are far from the Lord and His purpose.
I can honestly say that most people don’t experience organic church life simply because they are willing to live without it! You MUST be desperate for this life! I mean REALLY desperate! My wife and I were not willing to live without it. We were willing to go anywhere and do anything to find it!
The Bottom Line
One of my favorite movies is The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. It’s about the taking down by law enforcement officers of one of the most notorious criminals of all time; Al Capone of Chicago. Costner (Elliot Ness) works for the Treasury department and has been commissioned to put Capone out of business. Connery is an older Irish cop on the beat in Chicago. He has obviously been around the block several times and knows what is really going on with crime in the city. Costner recruits Connery to help him put Capone down. However, Connery’s character makes one thing clear to Ness by asking him one simple question: “what are you prepared to do?” He then goes on to tell him that this is an “all or nothing” endeavor. That if he goes after Capone it will cost him everything. Then he tells Ness, “here endeth the lesson.”
Brothers and sisters, what are you prepared to do? Are you willing to go wherever and do whatever your Lord wants? Don’t answer too quickly! It’s so easy to say “Yes” to such a proposition without having counted the cost. So… what is the cost? The cost is simply everything! Your Life! Living organic church life means that you no longer hold any claims to your own personal life and now He IS your life. And believe me, this rabbit hole goes much deeper than you ever imagined!
Is Christ REALLY enough?
“Here endeth the lesson.”
Special Note: If this message (and the Lord’s dealings with you) have been tugging at your heart and you are willing to lay it all down for His calling and His purpose then you may be ready to engage in the most glorious adventure ever – true body life! If this sounds like you then please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will give you information on some possible new organic church plants that you can get involved in.