“But why can’t I come now Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.”
“Die for me?” Jesus answered. I tell you the truth Peter – John 13:37-38
It’s a universal tale isn’t it, one that everyone knows how to finish. The cock crows, and Peter (and Jesus) suffers great anguish. As I read this time and again, it is Jesus’ reply that catches my attention. You can hear the tone through the scathing comeback – “Die for me?” Peter had no idea what was coming, and had no right to be so presumptuous.
But, because of Christ, the story doesn’t end there. In fact, Jesus’ other prophesy about Peter alsocame true. When filled with God’s Spirit, he went from a brazen, brash weakling, to a bold yet humble leader. In the end, by all accounts, Peter was also crucified, upside down as he considered himself unworthy to be hung the same way as his Lord.
I’ve been reading these past few months, and praying, and thinking about this word ‘die’. If I am not mistaken, our willingness today not to die to ourselves and take up our cross, is the very reason why we, modern Christendom, are as weak as we are. We simply don’t take Jesus seriously enough as he urges us to ‘take up our cross daily and deny ourselves – before following him’. In fact it is far worse than we can ever imagine.
Today, rather than simply taking up our cross and follow the Lord at undoubtedly great cost to ourselves, we have paid others to do that for us. Rather than smash the idols in our lives that Paul refers to in the very first chapter of Romans, we have assumed that we can live with them happily by our side. If we can do the very minimum – attend a weekly service, listen to somebody else’s interpretation of Scripture (presumably because we don’t have time to read it and listen to the Holy Spirit ourselves) and sing some ‘worship’ songs, then we can get out and get on with our lives as normal people do.
We have been conned into thinking that this is enough to get us a ‘ticket to heaven’ which after all is simply brilliant, because it means we can have our cake and eat it too. We get the benefits of this life here, and eternity with Christ in the next. We will gladly sacrifice a small “fee” to enjoy these ‘out of this world’ benefits, and anyway the fee is Biblical and such a small price out of our standard of living, that we are glad to pay it so someone else can “do” our Christianity for us. We are in short, the most deluded group of people alive today.
There was a time in Peter’s life when he could say with absolute certainty, “Lord, I’m ready to die for you,” and be willing to follow through on it. But for you, or for me, is that the real truth? What remains in my life that I have not yet died to? Television, instead of prayer? Families, work, lifestyle, fear, pride, church, the list is endless. Do we understand what Jesus said though:
“If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Do you find that, like me, you read parts of what Jesus said and skip over it because it simply doesn’t make sense, or it’s too difficult? We have created a Jesus in our own image, but friends, this IS Jesus, and it is the only one we have. There is no other.
Jesus is telling us, as he always does, that he is anti anything and everything that would cause us not to obey him, because our heart strings, comforts, prejudices and pride are tied up in something other than him. He tells us that if we don’t leave our nets there and then and follow him completely, then eventually we will fall, we will fail as Peter did, and that we are deluding ourselves about the unseen world, a world which he knows and understands everything about.
We read Acts today, and create a ‘wax museum’ alternative, before proclaiming, this is how it was! But still, we don’t die to ourselves. The price of our delusion though, is astronomic.
This week, on the streets we spoke to more than a few young people, and asked them whether we could pray, or talk to them about Spiritual things, about Jesus. Everyone to a tee, declined, even if politely. We see them walking, living, talking and eating, and completely blinded to the God that created them. Yet here is the point of all of this, all of them, without exception, talk about a ‘church’ or religion to do with an older generation and they scoff. They know, they see this ‘wax work museum’ of the real thing that we have created, how ineffective and pallid it is, how those that have gone before them have simply gone through the motions, with no authenticity. They don’t want to know. They see a wax statue of Jesus, and never experience the real thing. Is it any wonder?
Friends, it must change and for that to happen, He must change us, and we must be prepared to give up everything. Only when Jesus has the community of believers that he wants, a community that is defined by a total dying to self, and sacrificially loving all others, will the world sit up and take notice, and respond to Him.
Believe me, this present generation is only interested in the Real Thing, they, like Him, will accept no substitutes. What about us? Lord, forgive us for this, surely the very worst we could do to you.