Makeover or Takeover
Text: Luke 14:25-35 | Listen to Message
The Startling Demands of Jesus
Imagine what would happen today if a political candidate abruptly announced to a packed arena, “Many of you are only following me because of what you think I will do for you, but here’s the thing: unless you’re willing to hate your families, renounce everything you have, and go to the firing squad for me, I will not represent you.”
Pandemonium would immediately break out: booing, and hissing, and jeering – and lots of 4-letter words describing what he can do to himself! Some people would storm the stage and literally try to beat those ideas out of his head. There would be a rapid mass exodus from the arena. Every news outlet and social media platform would be railing against this sound bite – and against him. The candidate would be forced to suspend his campaign in disgrace.
I think we’d agree that no one has the right to talk to you that way. And no good, decent, humble individual ever would. No one would dare…except Jesus, that is.
See, Jesus actually said stuff like this. Repeatedly.
So, first, can we please dispense with this modern notion that Jesus was just a good teacher, or a kind, loving, compassionate man, or the epitome of a selfless martyr? Either he’s a self-obsessed megalomaniac, or he’s a stark raving lunatic, or he’s the Lord of creation. We simply cannot say he’s not God but was a swell guy.
Second, we can’t dismiss the outlandish demands of Jesus simply because we’re offended by them. If he’s God – if he made us – then he can demand anything he wants. It simply won’t do to tell ourselves that only the most radical Christians live this way, so, as more “balanced” believers, we are excused. If Jesus is Lord, and he says, “If anyone would come after me…,” then we’ve got to take seriously his non-negotiable call to discipleship.
But why? Why would we do this? Why would we give our fundamental allegiance to a Jewish carpenter-turned-rabbi who wound up being crucified outside Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago? Why would we say goodbye to everything we once held dear and built our lives upon…for his sake? Why would we embrace suffering, shame, and even the death of our identities, opinions, and dreams…for him?
The first reason is because Jesus already did this for you – and for your salvation. Jesus left the infinite, eternal glories of heaven – he renounced everything – to take on human flesh and suffer and die in your place. He’s not another Jim Jones or Marshall Applewhite telling you to kill yourself for him. He’s the Lamb of God who lost everything, including his life, for you. That’s the first reason you ought to surrender everything to him: He is worthy!
The second reason is because, paradoxically, dying to yourself is the only way you can truly live. So long as you cling to your self-determined, self-made, self-obsessed identity, you are burying yourself in a grave of pride and pity. You’ll be self-exalting when you think you’re succeeding and self-loathing when you fail. And eventually, apart from Christ, your pride and self-pity will go on and on forever.
Jesus calls you to give up everything to follow him because he knows this is what you were made for. This is how you flourish and find your true self. This is how you let go of that identity that can be so easily bruised and crushed, and exchange it for one that’s humble, confident, and unassailable!
So don’t use Jesus to try to get the life that you want. In the end, you’ll lose both. Instead, use your life to get Jesus. And in the end, you’ll get him and, with him, everything else thrown in.