Matthew ★16 “If you don’t die with Jesus, you will eventually die without him. Either way, we are creatures given to sin and we’re going to die, we are given a choice over when, how and what happens afterward.”
In the proceeding verse 23 Jesus opens a can of whoopass on Peter for setting his mind on the things of man, rather than the things of God. Specifically, Peter was concerned about Jesus going to the cross–he didn’t want Jesus to die. As innocent as Peters motivation sounds, Jesus was probably very conscious of the fact that crucifixion on a cross was not going to be pleasant, BUT it was God’s plan, and God’s plan is never 2nd rate or wrong. Jesus has made a decision to put God’s will before his own comfort and he will not have anyone, not even his beloved disciple Peter, confusing or clouding that decision with selfish motivation. God’s will is the ultimate decision because his plan is the ultimate good. Jesus trusts that if anything that the Father sets on his path appears to be bad news, he knows it is because some very good news is making the bad news worth enduring. Jesus trusted in God, even to the very end causing him to cry out from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He followed God’s will above his own, even to the point of separation from God. God separated himself. God was torn–EXTREME bad news–submitting himself to extreme anguish, for the sake of his un-merited love for a sinful people. Us.
With that example in mind he gives us wisdom, instructing us to live the same why. And he gives us the reason why we should take his advice.
24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever would save his lifeg will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In Bill Hull’s book, The Complete Book of Discipleship (ridiculous title, but a great book), he invests a lot of communicative energy into pushing an important point that really drives the whole book; faith is following. There is no faith, without following Bill Hull would say. A person might say that have faith that a wooden chair will hold their weight, but until they plunk themselves down on the chair, resting their full weight on top of it, their so called faith is nothing more than a cognitive agreement. In this verse, Jesus emparts the same principal with a command attached (or in this context it might be seen more as an invitation).
Jesus first says If you’re going my way, don’t be surprised when we walk right into the furious fire of persecution and even death. If Jesus’ had a disciple who was a used car salesman, he would, at this point, be looking over at Jesus with a look in his face saying “No don’t say that! They’ll never want to follow you if you say that!” Likewise, the overzealous “evangelistic” parent determined to have all their children confessing faith in Jesus before the age of 4 is not likely to repeat the same sobering invitation to their child. Jesus is unmistakenly offering bad news; follow me = die with me.
But then our Lord (being the kind, gracious and non-oppresive God that he is) informs us of our only alternative graciously inviting us to make a choice. After all, maybe there are some who don’t want to follow Jesus. Maybe some people think a life denied is to high a price to pay. While Jesus in no way recommends the alternative he informs us of it, so that we are aware of our options. If you don’t die with me, you will eventually die without me. Either way, we’re going to die, we are given a choice over when, how and what happens afterward.
While he doesn’t say it directly in this verse and in verse 23 he only hints at it in addressing Peter, Jesus is dropping a major hint. There is something in us that must die! SIN!
The wages of sin is death. Some times I wish sin was a 12 syllable word because three letters just doesn’t seam to encapsulate it’s force and weight. Sin surely is a weighty thing. No-one desires to sin, they desire the satisfaction they think sin will bring. People sin because sin has gripped them, not allowing them to have fun unless they submit to it’s will. Sin taks something God designed for his glory and perverts it to become something that exists for it’s own glory – which will always lead the sinner to depression because he will not acheive his goal. He will always be unsatisfied because he can’t meet the standard of glory he seeks, because he was designed to seek God’s glory and God is eternally glorious.God HATES sin! God HATES sin! God HATES sin! And as a righteous judge God does not allow sin to remain in his presence. As an impartial and fair judge God does not let sin get away with the wrong that it commits. Sin always and only ends in death because death is the opposite of life and God is Life.
WE SIN! Not only do we sin but we enjoy sinning and look for creative ways to entertain sin while covering it’s ugliness. Unashamedly we live sinful lives, ignoring the injustice our collective sin causes in the world. Our overspending to maintain our modern material and mental idols leaves us with less than pocket change to give to those in need. The poor are dying of starvation, the earth is being sucked dry, people strive tooth and nail to save an extra $20 on the grocery bill while their stomachs turn with hesitation as they send $30 to the starved each month. We shake our heads and *tisk*tisk when we see an example of bad parenting but when we ourselves are guilty of the same we stew over imaginary threats to offer those who are probably judging us. Worst of all we look to the heavens with fists balled and shaking, cursing God at an undesirable turn of events, while returning home to worship our magic glowing window idol for hours in hope that it will deliver us from our hell. All the while God watches in anguish pleading Why won’t you look to me. I made your eyes, I gave you the ability to see beauty and I can offer no beautifuler thing than myself. Yet we keep our eyes focused low. We will let anything become our god, we will worship anything at all, sex, entertainment, money, power… We allow anything to sit on the throne of our heart – just as long as it isn’t him! The only worthy God. Because to worship him, is to lose control. To worship God is to submit everything to him. To trust him, that he will take care of us. To worship God is to become a child again–helpless to change anything apart from our fathers strength and providence. Resting on him for everything being nurtured in every way by his love alone.
To worship God is to become a child again–helpless to change anything apart from our fathers strength and providence. Resting on him for everything being nurtured in every way by his love alone. Who could ever want such a indignant position.
You see how sick sin in? God desires peace and sin is the enemy to peace. Sin must die for peace to be full. Sin must dies for peace to be full. Jesus Christ. God, as the son, as a man on earth, came to offer us peace by taking our sin to the grave for us, and then showing us how to live a life in rebellion against sin.
So this is where faith comes into it.
- FIRST. Do you believe that God is good and has the power to offer you the peace that your were created to find satisfaction in, in him alone? Or do you think that peace is something that you can manufacture on your own, despite your weakness against sin?
- SECOND. Will you believe in God that he will provide that peace for you, as you submit yourself to his will which will walk you to the cross where Jesus bears your sin and where you yourself will continue to deny yourself of sin?
Father, as I read your words I’m thankful for your Spirit that comes and makes sense of it all. My eyes and mind alone couldn’t make sense of it. Even as I write it all down now Lord, I find myself tripping over words. But the life and peace that your offer–that I feel underneath my feet as I walk forward–that is more real to me that any words. I want to die to me sin Lord, my lust for self-satisfaction. I’ve tried so hard to satisfy myself… it never works. And I keep going back. I want to follow you Jesus. Take my heart and give me yours! I love you. I see your beauty, in your words and even more so in your creation as I experience it day by day. You’ve made it so clear to me that your are my only hope and the only chance for life. I want your life now, don’t hold back from me the power I know you offer but teach me how to die so that I might dwell in you and walk by your power.
I’m weak Lord, I speak weak, I think weak, I walk weakly. You are strong, you speak, think and walk with strength even as you wore your cross. Bearing it for me while at anytime you could have escaped it. That is not the kind of strength I am made of – but you are. Change me to be like you. I’m a dog on the floor panting for water, waiting to die until my master comes to bring me life.