24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)
Yesterday, we launched a new series at Fellowship Church called Decisional. As the name suggests, over these next weeks we will be discovering together how to effectively navigate life’s many decisions, particularly those “decisional” decisions which reach beyond the “right here, right now” to resonate with influence and impact well into the future. And on the spectrum of life’s decisions, there is no more “decisional” decision than our response to the invitation which Jesus lays before His disciples- and before us- in the above text.
“If anyone would come after me…” With this simple call, Jesus makes two critical truths clear- one, that this invitation is open to “anyone” who would take it, and two, that there is no “middle ground” to be had here. In response to Jesus’ invitation, there are only two directions in this life- with Jesus, or without Him. We may not like being painted into that corner, but if we want to dwell in the realm of reality, we simply must turn one way or the other; Jesus won’t allow us to remain “neutral” here.
Now, a moment of honesty- If I’m Jesus, and I want people to take me up on my offer, I’m not certain that I would employ His stated strategy. He pulls no punches as to the nature of following Him, making explicitly clear from the outset that it will mean self-denial, the daily “taking up” of a Cross, and the “loss” of one’s life. Jesus says to anyone who’ll listen, “The decision to follow me is the decision to die.” Not exactly the most compelling “sales pitch” you’ve ever heard, is it? So why, then, would anyone choose this direction? If the alternative to following Jesus is being your own master, living life your way, calling your own shots, why would you give all of that up to go with Him?
The key to understanding the answer to that question lies in 16:25. In this verse, Jesus reveals the absolutely upside down nature of the economy of the Kingdom of God. He says to His disciples, and to us, “If you choose what looks like “life,” in the end you’ll lose it all. But if instead you follow me down this road toward “death,” you’ll find real life, the very thing for which you were created.” You see, Jesus has a perspective far broader and far reaching than ours; He knows what’s at the end of each of these “roads.” He knows that the road opposite His, as attractive as it may seem in the short term, is ultimately a dead end, while the road after Him is the pathway to eternal life.
The principle that underlies Jesus’ invitation is this- Whatever you live for in this life ultimately becomes your reward. You want to be your own god? Go for it. But recognize that at the end of that road, you have yourself for your hope- and trust me, you’re going to make for a thoroughly disappointing god. On the contrary, if you choose to follow Jesus, regardless of what challenges you may face along the way, He will be waiting for you at the end of that road. Better than that, He will be with you as you take every step along the way. Oh, that God would give us a sense of just how desperately we need Him to satisfy our restless hearts!
So what does all of this have to do with our decision making? Everything. You see, your life’s Decision will make your life’s decisions. The direction in which you set your life- with Jesus, or without Him- will become the “filter” through which your everyday decisions are made. Decisions about your family and relationships. Decisions about your finances. Decisions about your work. Decisions about your sexuality. Decisions about everything.
That’s why before we can talk about our everyday decisions, we must grapple with our eternal Decision. Jesus has made Himself clear; there is no “bait and switch” happening here. The only question now is, How will you respond? Will you go His way, or yours? The crossroads is before you. Your move.