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  • Writer's pictureJosh Reading


Updated: Sep 27, 2023


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I think this is an issue I think need be raised with clarity so we can all, including myself repent. To be clear for a moment, it is not only in Western Christians that I see this.

There is something deeply wrong with ourselves as Christian’s, particularly in western or other wealthy countries. We are sure Jesus would not want us to ‘go unnoticed’ or to get ‘too tired’, to ‘be on the roster too often’ or be doing something ‘outside our grace place’ or some other excuse. At the same time we superficially celebrate the sacrifice of Christians in closed countries when they actually give up their very lives. Yes, I am rolling my eyes. Let me be direct, it is pathetic and it does need to be called out.

This attitude brings shame to our suffering Messiah. It is entitled, unbiblical and un-Christlike. On some level, I think it racist. God seems to be ok for Christians in some Muslim or other hostile nations to be tortured, to lose their family for Christ, to lose their property and very life but he would not let or want us to be too stressed out.

Garbage. I don’t buy it even though I sometimes feel it. I need rebuke and repent this posture in myself. Jesus and the Prophets saw this as well in people, it is not new but it is still a blight. Many Jewish people had an idea that that were 'owed' blessing by God simply due to their birth (Matt 3:9) The Pharisees sought out public honour and recognition (Matt 23:6; Luke 20:46). They even made a deal about being called "Rabbi" (Matt 23:7; Mark 12:38). Oh, how I wish Christians would stop making a big deal about the 'title' Pastor. It simply does not exist in the Bible, it is a role, an honour, a burden but it does not exist to puff up. The Pharisees loved to gain attention for their good deeds (Matt 23:5; Luke 18:11). If others did not acknowledge their sacrifice, there was something wrong. That is not the way of Jesus.

"And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

You will never live in the life of Christ, when you are trying to assert your authentic self. Until, you deny yourself, you are living in death already. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" Phil 1:21 Until we have learnt to DIE TO OURSELVES, we will not truly know the LIFE OF CHRIST. I think there is a deep issue of identity that many western Christians raised in individualistic culture and faith are struggling with.

The rebellion of Protestantism, in many ways good, did create at times distance between us, our history and communal identity. We speak a language that is individualistic and as such can hardly imagine corporate identity and language. This is not the case with most languages and cultures. We, particularly in English speaking worldviews live as spiritual islands only connected to the body practically by the conveniences that suit us. In response, some follow this self-serving into denial entirely. I have seen it, I have grieved over it but I also know Jesus and his Apostles all saw this as well.

Excuses are always given, ‘it is the leader’, ‘it is too hard’, ‘the Church is too…’, ‘the Church does not…’, some old person ‘was critical of me’ yet at the end of the day, it is some form of offence. Jesus had this exact moment when he told his followers they should ‘eat his flesh and drink his blood’ in John 6. Their response can be seen in John 6:66 “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” V66 Jesus’ response…

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.” V67

I am convinced, like everyone who left, the 12 were offended. They were challenged by Jesus in this, but they understood a simple reality that must overcome every offense and excuse. “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” V 68

Dying to self never feels great, it feels like loss (Phil 3:7), like moments of deep grief that are even like the death of our soul (Matt 26:38)

As western Christians we often run pillar to post looking for a better shape, a better practice, a better preacher, a more comfortable or deep tradition, or cooler and relevant one but none of these, even when they provide something in passing can ever replace the call “to believe and know that you (Jesus) are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68)

So, Christian, whatever your tradition, whatever your doubt, whatever your complaint, the only answer is finding yourself ‘In Christ’ (Eph 1:4) He is the place of rescue, of solace and yes, even increased suffering (1 Peter 4:1 – 3) So how do we get out of this? Come on a quick journey of what Jesus said. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me."

1. Deny yourself This life is not about discovering your 'authentic self' but denying it and discovering a 'new self' in Christ. It is not about fulfilling your dreams, but following in the vision of God. You are not the centre of the universe, no one least of all God 'owes you' anything.

That may sound negative but once you get this reality in order, the love of God and the value he places on you anyway is compounded. This looks like rebuking yourself sometimes, repenting and returning to a posture of humility before God. 2. Take up your cross The prospect of carrying a weight toward death sounds like a counter factual idea. How can carrying the weight of call, of responsibility bring gain? However, Jesus did not carry the cross because of his 'self love' but because of his 'love for the whole world' (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2) This desire to bring life to the world rather than to self leads you to a place where eternal purpose becomes fused with this world, a vision that goes beyond the immediate. 3. Follow Jesus How did Jesus walk? How did he respond to temptation? To opportunity to take the easier road? Who did he love? Did he deny truth whilst doing so?

25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.26

We must regain the heart cry of the disciple across the ages, to lose our lives is a reflection of a life "worthy of the calling" (Eph 4:1) This loss of life is not about a social project though, it is not about social justice selfies showing off how good we are for public acclaim, it is "for me" Jesus says. How is this bringing God glory? (John 15:8) How is this an act of loving obedience? (John 14:15) Unfortunately, I have watched people trade in their own soul to gain the acclaim, acceptance and authority that this world offers. It is to their loss.

4. Live for eternal reward and approval

"What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" Matt 16:24 - 26 Sometimes the life of following Jesus can actually feel like one of loss, of grief, of even walking somewhat alone in a crowd that may even hate you (John 15:18 - 27)

"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done." Matt 16:27

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