It Is Not Sacrifices, Suffering, And Pain (The Cross) That Please Our God But What We Become (the end) Through Them
”If anyone comes to me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers or sisters-or even his own life more than me, he cannot be my follower. Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me cannot be my follower“(Luke 14:26-27). This statement makes me and you, I suppose, scream our heads off; what a selfish Jesus! Jesus is apparently saying that if we are to be His true and faithful followers, we must be willing to forsake our parents, brothers and sisters or even our own lives. Isn’t that cruel?
It is a known truth that the way to Heaven is a narrow one, full of troubles, persecutions, tribulations, segregation, lack, and all sorts of depressing issues (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12) but is that the real point? Is being in the narrow gate enough or the purpose for which you are in there? Is suffering and living in deprivation, forsaking ourselves and those we care about a service to Christ or that which you become by it or them (the sacrifices)? Let us ask the bible.
Note: Anyway, God is really selfish (Romans 11:36; Deuteronomy 5:7-10) for all He cares about is His Glory and nothing else. And He won’t tolerate any other competitor for His place (the bible says; I am a jealous God! We will come back to this some other day). And yet He does all this for good of man too (Romans 8:28).
In the book, InDefense Of Total Christian Prosperity, Nemvicx writes;
”It is not the pain that counts but what we become through it“. Applying this to the above words of Jesus, Nemvicx is saying that it is not the cross or forsaking of our families or even our lives that matter to God but what we become through it. In other words, Jesus is not asking us to forsake our families or even deny ourselves for the sake of just the pain, but the end of it. And doesn’t Jesus say this inspiration Himself? Yes He does. Look here; ”those who want to save their lives will lose their true lives and those who instead give up their lives for me, they shall gain true lives“. It is worth nothing to gain everything in this world and lose your soul (Matthew 16:25-26).
The End Justifies The Means
In Matthew 16:21-228, Jesus clearly tells His apostles that death was coming to Him, but He does not end with death but resurrection. He dies in order to resurrect (you may ask; but He is already alive, why would He die to gain that which He already has? And let me tentatively say; this time He gains more! We will come back to this, but there are glimpses of this in the article below;
The preachers of pain and sacrifices (cross) sometimes forget the real reason for the cross and emphasize pain, sacrifices, and endurance among Christians as if a level of pain or sacrifices that is enough to incite God’s love or eyes towards us. Pioneers in this gospel promote fasting (for even more days than your body can take), giving (even beyond your means), living in lack (poverty) and depravity, loving your enemies more than you love yourself, and distancing yourself from any source of pleasure or happiness in this life as if you can pay God through such giving up or self-denials. But God or Jesus is asking us to mind more about what we are suffering for and not the suffering itself. In other words, it is the end (heavenly glory) that gives meaning to the means (the way of the cross).
So why should we forsake our families or even our lives for Christ? The answer is simple; it is when we do that that we actually save them or ourselves. It is through forsaking everything for Christ that we are actually gaining everything for ourselves (mark my words; we are gaining everything not for God but for ourselves). The cross is not the real deal, the real deal is its end; the purpose. Listen to Charles Pope (2017) on the same verses; “the Lord announces not only the cross but also the resurrection. In effect He announces the pattern of the Christian life, which we have come to call the ”Paschal Mystery“ (Related to the Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach, Paschal Mystery is the suffering, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus).
The Cross and True Self Love
Isn’t our practice the one of self-love in its proper meaning?
READ THIS: How Do You Love Yourself Best?
We never knew love till God showed us what it is and how to love. Actually, the bible says that we love God because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). The above call upon us to denounce our families and lives for Christ’s sake is a call to true self love. God is telling us to forsake the fake promises of pleasure and life given by Satan and this world and reach for the everlasting pleasure, life and glory. He is asking us to love ourselves the best and perfect way. In my earlier writings, I had said; we are not serving God when we love Him but serving ourselves.
Did Paul say something about this? Of course yes. Check 2 Corinthians 4:10 (We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body). And so Charles Pope explains; it is like an upward spiral in which the cross brings blessings we enjoy. We often circle back to the crosses (pain and suffering) God permits, but then there come even greater blessings and higher capacities. He continues; we are dying to our old self, to this world, to our sins; but rising to new life, rising to the kingdom of God and there becoming victorious over sin. We die in order to live more richly.
Can I say it more?
God’s Glory And Man’s Delight
”Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart“(Psalm 37:4). Also, Psalm 16:11 (In your presence there is fullness of Joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore). But what are the desires of your heart the bible is talking about?
God is glorified in us when we are delighted (Oxford dictionary defines delight as a feeling of great pleasure) in Him. John Piper says it this way; “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him” (Desiring God, page 10). That is the definition of our relationship with God. In other words, God takes care of Himself (His glory) in His service to mankind and we take of ourselves in our service to God. And yet this relationship is not mutual (or equal)! Why? Because God can still take care of Himself (serve His glory) even in absence of us or our service to Him. And now you see why it is okay to say; He loves us unconditionally (this does not mean we don’t do anything in return but simply because there is nothing we give back that wasn’t His in the first place or that would make Him become less God if we didn’t give it).
We are saying Jesus is not asking us to live in pain, distance ourselves from pleasure, and make sacrifices of our time, friends, families and lives just for the sake of pain but pleasure. We are not on a way of losses, but gains, eternal and even eternal gains. And when we have this pleasure, satisfaction and fulfillment in dying for Him, He is glorified in us. God is not glorified in our pain, lack, poverty and suffering, but in our satisfaction, pleasure and delight in Him. John Piper says it again: “We get the mercy; He gets the Glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us”. That is our relationship with God. It is not only about seeing His glory but delighting in it that actually glorifies God (Romans 12:8).
Summary and conclusions
God commands us to serve Him with Joy, pleasure and happiness (Micah 6:8; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:2; 2 Corinthians 2:3; Hebrews 10:34; Romans 12:8 and 2 Corinthians 9:7). The sacrifices, long hours and days we spend in fasting, the pleasures we forego to be in His house, the wake hours we spend in His word, the pain we endure to overcome a temptation, and every cross we carry for God’s sake do not necessarily make us owners and partakers of His Kingdom but the pleasure, joy, satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment we have in Him while doing that.
And if it is this end that counts so much and not necessarily the pain or suffering, then we should be more careful while judging the end and not the means. The means (the cross) can be so much varying depending on what God allows each one of us to forsake for His sake, but the end is the same; delight and satisfaction in Him.
READ THIS: Patience is waiting while doing something
GOD BLESS YOU