Resurrection and Discipleship

Take up your crossThen he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but I live life in two opposite directions. On the one hand, I find myself pursuing Jesus and following him faithfully, but on the other hand, I find myself dragging all of my shortcomings and faults that hold me back.

This two-sided struggle is — for me — captured in the paradoxical phrase “living the cross life.” The cross…a symbol of death…calls me to a new kind of life…the life of The One who was crucified on the cross. So, both “death” and “living” are bound up together in this “cross life.”

Jesus’ call to discipleship (see above) binds the two together as well saying that the disciple-life is a life of dying. Notice the focus–it’s on life, one that is characterized by dying. Dietrich Bonhöffer recognized this focus when he said that Jesus calls us to die to our own self and values, but that the call to discipleship is also about a new life.

Unfortunately, most of us didn’t get the memo; we don’t hear Jesus’ discipleship call clearly, so, we miss Bonhöffer’s point and make the Christian life all about dying. To put it another way, we are so focused on our shortcomings and faults that they become our preoccupation to the neglect of our living the Christ life.  We’re stuck on our sin instead of experiencing the newness of life lived in the power of the spirit of the risen Jesus Christ.

We fix our eyes on the “crucifix” — a cross with the body of Jesus nailed to it — instead of the “cross” — a cross without the body of Jesus nailed to it.   A dead Jesus on the cross demonstrates that God’s grace and forgiveness are now available, but it’s only through the resurrection — God’s “yes” to Jesus’ death on the cross — that we experience freedom from the power of sin and empowerment for living the Christ life.

Jesus’ resurrection makes available to us God’s forgiveness provided on the cross and empowers us to live our new life — the life of the indwelling Jesus Christ.  So, our focus should be on the “living” and not the “dying”…the “following” and not simple the “denying.”  Our focus should be on the resurrection and not the cross.  In so doing we experience not only freedom from the penalty of sin, but also freedom from the power of sin.

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