"All The Way" Followers

"There are plenty of Christians to follow the Lord halfway, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends, and honours, but it touches them too closely to disown themselves."            (Eckhart, 15th century mystic)

How variously can one understand Eckhart’s observation? How many possibilities exist for honest and forthright comprehension? His statement is so simple, even simplistic at first examination. “I can do that”, we silently muse at the premise put forth by this ancient man. It does seem that simple, and it is, but oh, how very difficult is the doing in comparison with the thinking.

So many Christians, followers of Jesus, twice-born men, find it impossible even to part with earthly possessions in their pursuit of spiritual life. Most Christians will lift their hands in worship, sing the songs of heaven with unconcealed enthusiasm, rise early on Saturday morning to attend a “prayer breakfast”, but ask them to reach into their wallets or purses and part with their money, the hard-earned currency of their labor and they balk like a cat being shown a waiting bathtub.

What does it mean to “disown” oneself? How is it accomplished that a man might “lay down his life” for another? What method is employed in the shedding of our own fleshy skins, and to what effect do we do so?

Let me remind us all of the command of Jesus – not to spiritual superstars – but to all of us: If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”

I know, we prefer the words of blessing and the promises of prosperity to the harsh mandates of sacrifice and dying.

Yet the whole gospel message, the good news of God to man is centered on the continual act of giving, of sacrificing, of laying down one’s rights, position, and even (especially) one’s life.

The Apostle, who reminded us that he died daily also taught that Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

We love words such as victory, triumph, over comer, conqueror, winner, success, champion, achievement, but none of these come without battle, war, contest, challenge, effort, cost.

Understand that without the disowning, the renunciation of ourselves, we have nothing in Christ. Recall when Jesus said "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” And it was John who declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease”.

But of course we know that; we’ve read it. We’ve heard it mentioned in sermons on Sunday. But notice John’s next words, the words that follow immediately after “He must increase, but I must decrease”; “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth.”

And there it is: “from above” is “above”; from the “earth” is “earthly”. This is the continual and perpetual tension. This is the root out of which Paul writes the seventh chapter of Romans, the constant war and struggle between our “knowing” and our “doing.” It all springs from the question of whether we are “above” people or “earthly” people.

Here is truth:we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.” And then we were “born again”, literally “born from above”.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is,sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God . . . Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Let me explain further: You likely own a car, or some material, tangible thing. If you own a car, you have in your possession the title deed to that particular vehicle as opposed to other cars driving your city’s streets.  This particular car by law, is yours. It is yours to do with as you please. You can care for the car, change the oil regularly, keep the fluids at prescribed levels, keep good tires on it, or you can abuse, neglect and ruin the car: It's yours. You own it. It's not just in your possession, it's yours to do with as you desire.

So too, we have been given our lives as gifts from God. What heaven desires is that we might return our lives to God in response to His love, grace, mercy and goodness; not because we must, but because we   choose to; we want to. The words "My life is not my own" come into focus here.

Ruth Hill was a student, busy with life, making plans for her future when suddenly she realized this truth. Ruth wrote in her journal,

“Last week represented a monumental change in my life. I realized that all my plans and goals for my life were my plans and goals, not God’s. I realized my life is not my own and that life is not about me. I knew there are millions of unreached people in the world and that I could change that. Throughout the rest of the semester, God continued to change me, to build my passion for missions and to ruin me for everything except his perfect will.”

And therein is the true secret of life in Christ: To be “ruined for everything except His perfect will.”

So long as we maintain ownership of our lives, we are not God's. Only as we surrender the right of ownership, give up the title deed to our lives will we find true fulfillment in Him. Only as we become possessions of heaven rather than possessors of ourselves will be discover true freedom, success and joy.

We have been taught (wrongly) that it is commendable for one to surrender possessions, friends, and honors. Such sacrifice is nothing, for what can we truly own, who can we truly hold closely, what titles, tributes, prizes or reputations are truly worth keeping in the light of eternity?

Only when we move beyond the simple sacrifice of paltry toys and baubles and the “froth of life” and move into the arena of the death of self; the giving away of who, what and why we are, do we truly discover life as God intended it to be lived.

Is this sufficient? Am I wordy enough? Do you understand? Do my words mean anything in the pantheon of history or in the light of His glory? Meaningless words; only action, toward Him, away from self, holds any momentary or eternal value.

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

Denial of Self

Take up my cross

Follow Jesus

A three-point sermon; a fulfilled life. “Disown,” “renounce”, “reject”, “turn my back on”, “disclaim”, “deny”,     die.

"There are plenty of Christians to follow the Lord halfway, but not the other half. They will give up possessions, friends, and honours, but it touches them too closely to disown themselves."

Disown, renounce, reject, turn my back on, disclaim, deny. . . die. And live.

In His Grace,

Greg

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