Jesus never said that following him would be easy.
We’ve read the words countless times: “Love your enemies,” “You cannot serve both God and money,” “Take up your cross and follow me.” Theoretically we believe them. But do we engage what Jesus says in a way that prompts action?
The truth we avoid talking about is that being a follower of Jesus is terribly inconvenienta pain in the neck at timesbecause it cuts across so many of our natural desires. But there is an even greater danger in avoiding what Jesus says. If we harden our hearts to the teachings of Jesus, we will never find true happiness.
In this powerful new book, author Steve Timmis calls all believers to consider ten sayings of Jesus that reveal where our affections lie. He reminds us that Christians are called to abandon, not cherish, the ways of the world and reject, not pursue, the things that afford us status, prestige, and pleasure.
As followers of Jesus we must grapple with what it means to follow him, and accept his verdict on what constitutes the good lifeno matter how counter-cultural it may seem. Doing so will powerfully reorient our hearts.
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.50(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Steve Timmis is the founder of The Crowded House, a church planting network, and co-founder and Director of The Porterbrook Network, an initiative that trains church planters. He is also the Director of Acts 29 Europe. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Leadership and co-author of Total Church and Everyday Church. Steve is a board-member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
Read an Excerpt
I Wish Jesus Hadn't Said That
finding joy in the inconvenience of discipleship
By Steve Timmis
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013 Steve Timmis
All rights reserved.
Deny Yourself and Take Up Your Cross
Having been a Christian for a while now, I have learned many things about following Jesus. One of the most irritating discoveries has been the way that Jesus and his words intrude into our lives, force us out of our grooves, and mess around with our worlds. For all the talk about "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," he is actually a very disturbing person whose words are troubling words. I don't think I am on my own when I say that sometimes I just want to be left alone to get on with life as I prefer to live it. I just want to do my own thing. Of course, we don't want to ditch Jesus completely. We like being part of the Jesus club. He is always going to get our vote, and we're really glad that he died to save us from our sin. But though we nod our heads in recognition of, and thanks for, what he has done, we then carry on in our own sweet way.
But if all that we know about Jesus is true, then why and how can this be the case? Christians assert that Jesus is the Son of God, the One who died and rose again to purchase and liberate a lost and sinful people. We believe that Jesus is the One by whom, and through whom, all things were made, and that he is making all things new. We believe that he will return and reign in glory. We know that, when he lived on earth, he showed us glimpses of his future kingdom, as he healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed storms, loved sinners, and healed the broken-hearted. Why then are we disposed to dismissing this King so easily?
Searching for the Good Life
One of the benefits of my years of experience is that I have had plenty of time to ponder on the answer. During this time, I've concluded that it's a calculated decision. Allow me to explain to those of you who have not been on the road for quite as long as I have! We all want to live "the good life." We all want lives that are enjoyable and fulfilling. It's a strong desire, a passion, a drive, almost an instinct. Yes, we recognize that our lives can't always be good. But when they're not good, we're disappointed. And if that state of "not good" continues, and life consistently fails to live up to our expectations, we become despondent. Sometimes we get depressed because we're not living the life we wanted or expected. So what is this good life? It may not surprise you to discover that I've pondered long and hard about this one too! I think it is as simple as this: getting what we want. When we get what we want, we are happy and content. Until, that is, we want something else.
Obviously, having what we want will mean different things to different people. What do you imagine would give you "the good life"? It's not all that hard to answer. Just finish the sentence: "I would be really happy if I had ... "
true love health
a husband/wife peace
a family more time
friends excitement and adventure
a job I liked the perfect wave (water or hair!)
the right church a manicure
wealth those shoes
a nice house season tickets
We're convinced that possessing that thing will lead us into the good life. At the very least, it will make us happier than we are today. So, mole-like, we scurry along in pursuit of our dreams, forever digging and tunneling. Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing, after all? We're content in our discontent, obediently reaching for the stars. We want it all, and we follow our desires (euphemistically called dreams). Often at any cost. Then Jesus comes along and stands in our way. He strides into my world and says, "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me." Exactly what is he talking about?
A Turning Point
The saying above occurred at a very significant juncture in Mark's account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. It was something of a turning point. Throughout Mark's account, "Who is this man?" is a recurring question that crops up in different forms in relation to Jesus' authority over demons, his claim to forgive sins, his ability to control the elements, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. Jesus knows he has caused quite a stir, and people are trying to figure him out. So he puts his disciples on the spot: what are they saying about me? They give a variety of speculative and fanciful answers, but then Jesus turns the full glare of the spotlight on his disciples and asks, "Who do you say I am?"
Peter comes right out with it, without so much as a second thought. This outspoken fisherman lands the catch in one swing: you are the Christ! By calling Jesus "the Christ," Peter was identifying Jesus as the one sent and empowered by God to fulfill hundreds of promises and satisfy the countless hopes and dreams of God's people over the centuries. If Jesus was the Christ, then in him God was at work in a new and significant way. Something truly momentous had arrived. Not so much a once-in-a-lifetime event as a once-in-time event.
Peter and his friends understood this, which was why Jesus' following comments were so confusing and ridiculous. When they thought about "the Christ," they thought about victories, parades, and supremacy. They had visions of singing "Glory, glory, the Messiah" all the way down Jerusalem High Street. Instead of that, Jesus was saying that being the Messiah was all about misunderstanding, rejection, suffering, and death. No wonder Peter objected. But if a suffering Christ was bad news, then things were about to go downhill faster than Jack and Jill in their aborted water-collecting initiative.
"So you want to follow me, do you?" Jesus asks. Though this was spoken to a motley crowd in Palestine over 2,000 years ago, Jesus is addressing every aspiring follower since then. Up to this point everyone did want to follow him. Who wouldn't want to follow this wonder-working, sin-forgiving, life-restoring Master who strode authoritatively around the region? But then he drops the bombshell. He says, "Well, following me involves two essential elements: self-denial and cross-carrying."
In an age of instant gratification, denial only exists as a river in Egypt. Everything in our culture says that we should pursue what we want. If you feel stuck in your marriage, leave it. If you want that promotion, go for it. If you don't want that baby, abort it. If you want that holiday, credit card it. Find your true desires and spend your life fulfilling them. You know you deserve it.
Enjoying the good things of this life that God gives us is not wrong. He has created us with unique personalities, gifts, and loves, and he wants us to enjoy him in those things. But our culture's obsession with getting what we want is the context that makes Jesus' words about denial sting. Not only are these words inconvenient for us, they're inconvenient for our friends too. What chance do we have of getting them interested in Jesus when Jesus is so hung up on self-denial?
What exactly is self-denial? It's "a total rejection of all self-worship and of every attempt to run your own life in pursuit of your own self-obsessed, self-glorifying dreams and ambitions." In other words, self-denial is when we say no to the human desire to rule our own lives. We stop trying to get for ourselves what we think we need or deserve. Self-denial is, instead, turning to worship the true God. We submit to his plans for our lives. We accept what he gives us with joy and contentment. We seek his glory above our own happiness. When the whisper of temptation says, "You know you want it," you respond with a loud and definitive, "No." When you hear those words, "You know you've earned it," you say again, simply, "No." When the seductive invitation says, "Because you're worth it," you firmly say, "No!"
But this call to self-denial is not a call to a life of abstinence and tedium. It is way more costly than that.
The image of cross-carrying, though obscure to us, was one that those listening to Jesus would have been all too familiar with: a man struggling under the weight of a large piece of wood as he stumbled toward the site of his own execution. It meant suffering, torture, and death. Forget the religious ritual of Lent: to deny yourself is not saying no to chocolate for forty days. To deny yourself is to say yes to death.
Following Jesus ultimately means denying yourself the right to life itself. That's how total it is. Deciding to follow Jesus is saying, "Jesus, I am going to follow you, and that means that I know that it's not my life any more. It's yours to do with as you please. By deciding to follow you, I am relinquishing all control and self-determination, and accepting that I may be called to suffer, be tortured, or even die for that decision."
It is interesting that this is not in the small print. The cost of following Jesus is written in large, bold letters for all to see. Jesus calls the whole crowd to hear these words, not just his disciples. This life-sacrificing self-denial isn't a special intensive course for those who are willing to give that little bit extra. This is discipleship at its most basic. This is the first time Jesus talks about discipleship, and this is the very first thing he says about it. And he says it to all of his prospective followers. This is the only kind of Christianity there is.
Consider pioneer missionary to Burma (now known as Myanmar), Adoniram Judson. In the course of his life as a missionary, he grieved the loss of two baby boys, his wife, his young daughter, his second wife, and three more children. But this suffering would not have surprised Adoniram. Here is an excerpt from the letter he wrote to his first wife's father, asking for his permission to marry her:
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
Is this what you signed up for when you decided to follow Jesus? That's the question we all must ask ourselves. If not, now's the time to admit it and get out while you're still alive. In the warmth of our living room or the comfort of a coffee shop or tea room, it's easy to sit back, relax, and say, "Yeah, I'm cool with that! If Jesus calls me to die for him and the gospel, so be it." But how do I know that, when push comes to shove, my life is expendable for the sake of Jesus and the gospel? We might say with all kinds of bravado how faithful we'd be ... But how do we know?
Frankly, I don't think we can know for sure beforehand. But we can get a sense of our willingness to die for Jesus by what we're willing to endure or let go of now. I'll highlight a list of very pointed things. I hope that you will be offended by at least some of them!
If you're not prepared to miss your favorite TV show in order to visit the lonely old man next door, you can be certain you won't give up your life.
If you're not prepared to give up your bed to go and serve someone, you can be certain you won't give up your life.
If you're not prepared to pursue people who are different from you in order to be a blessing to them, you can be certain you won't give up your life.
If you're not prepared to give up a holiday abroad so you can give money to support someone in gospel ministry, you can be certain you won't give up your life.
If you're not prepared to miss out on a promotion so that you can free up time to stay around and plant churches, you can be certain you won't give up your life.
If you're not prepared to jeopardize a friendship, risk rejection, or ruin your street cred so that you can tell others about Jesus, you can be 100% sure that you won't give up your life.
In a sense, every time I say no to something I want, or no to something I regard as my right, or no to something I really enjoy, for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, then I am taking up my cross and dying to self. It's only as I learn to die to self in those little moments of daily existence that I will be prepared to give up my life in that big moment of crisis.
If we won't say no now, we will never, ever say no then. And if we won't give up our lives for Jesus, who gave up everything he had for us, then we might as well come clean and walk away right now.
The Really Really Good Life
But before we walk away, look at this: "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).
Jesus is fundamentally calling into question the calculated decision we referred to earlier when we were talking about our pursuit of "the good life." Jesus is calling us to make a calculated decision, but on the basis of eternity. Jesus is calling us to readjust our desires, calling our hearts to be captivated by the joy that will be ours when he returns "in his Father's glory with the holy angels." Which do we want more—our version of the good life or his? As C. S. Lewis so insightfully put it, by desiring and pursuing any of the things that we listed earlier more than we desire God, we are refusing a trip to the seaside because we want to stay and play in a slum:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
We're exchanging the glory of the pounding surf and endless sand for playing around in a muddy puddle. But Jesus is calling us to live in the light of that moment when the kingdom of God will come in all of its breathtaking and staggering glory.
That is life in all its fullness. That is the life to be lived, loved, and longed for! In that very moment, when we see God in all of his triune glory as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we will know what life was meant to be. When the crucified, risen, glorified Jesus is seen by all, and we look upon the nail-prints in his hands and feet, and the spear mark in his side— at that very moment we will know, for the very first time, what it really means to be alive. In one exquisite and awesome instant, we will say, this is it—this is everything my heart has ever craved! This is everything I have ever been looking for—everything I have ever truly wanted is now!
In The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis writes, "There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else." Those things we demand in order to bring us the good life will disappoint us. Often we want things that are objectively good, like health, marriage, family, peace, and satisfaction. But when we demand these things in order to feel happy, we are bound to be disappointed. They cannot live up to our longing, because our longing is for heaven. It can only be satisfied by Christ Jesus and fulfilled in our heavenly home.
All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it— tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest— if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say "Here at last is the thing I was made for."
So whatever we say no to now—including life itself—is a small price to pay. In that moment of glory, when it all makes sense and it all comes together, just think how sordid and shoddy that bed, holiday, promotion, snobbery, friendship, or street cred is going to look. They matter so much to us now, but Jesus promises us that they will mean nothing at all then. And those good longings which were never fulfilled: the saying goodbye to family and friends for the sake of the gospel, the willingness to forego our dream home in the countryside or the family life we've always imagined, in order to follow Jesus ... all of these things then will take on the glorious richness of lives lived in submission to our Lord and refined by his loving hand. "In all this you greatly rejoice," says Peter who was later martyred, "though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6–7).
Excerpted from I Wish Jesus Hadn't Said That by Steve Timmis. Copyright © 2013 Steve Timmis. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Chapter 1: Deny yourself and take up your cross
Chapter 2: Love your enemies
Chapter 3: “…Not 7 times, but 77 times”
Chapter 4: “You Cannot Serve Both God and Money”
Chapter 5: Keep awake!
Chapter 6: “Love your neighbor”
Chapter 7: “Blessed are those who are persecuted”
Chapter 8: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
Chapter 9: Don’t be angry
Chapter 10: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”