It’s a New Year! It’s a time of renewal, new beginnings, or a change of pace. This is the part of the year that people feel the most passionate about changing over a new leaf. From my perspective, it almost seems as if the New Year is an opportunity or second chance to start a new life! Well, that perspective is being challenged for me.
In the first week of 2015, two people in my life have left this earth. I won’t go into details, but these very two different people were special to me in different ways. While I celebrate the homecoming of one, I am deeply saddened for the passing of the other. I’m left with many unanswered questions, but my one and only comfort is that I serve a Living and Sovereign Lord who loved these two individuals more than I could ever comprehend.
I’m really sorry if you are tired of this author who always seems to talk about death, but it’s something that happens on a regular basis! I think we just naturally like to brush the whole concept of death under the rug and forget that it is an inevitability of life. Well, let me pose this question for you: How can you begin a new year or a NEW LIFE without the Death of your old one?
I’m quite serious about this. Before you can turn over a new leaf or start afresh, you absolutely must put to death that old lifestyle, old habit, or old person. If you don’t make sure it is dead, it will most likely return, and you will be stuck living the same life all over again. How do you do it?
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
Picture yourself as this vulnerable animal like a lamb or a puppy, and you have this leash tied around your neck. When your Master pulls the leash to follow Him, you are left with two options. Either you docilely move with your Master by treading the same road as Him as His companion trusting in His leading, or you can completely rebel by pulling at the leash and doing your own willful things. When you pull against the leash, you are only hurting yourself. In the end by trying to fight your Master, you will just play in the mud, make a mess of your life, and ultimately leave a scar by tugging so hard against the leash.
In order to follow Christ, you have to deny yourself. That doesn’t mean acting a certain way in certain situations and fitting Jesus into your life when it’s convenient. Denial of self means allowing Jesus to have COMPLETE ownership of your life.
Maybe you are wondering about that other part that Jesus mentioned…about carrying His cross. Yeah, you have to do that too in order to follow Him. Does that mean you will have to die for the gospel? All believers are called to obedience. Carrying the cross means that you will GO where the Holy Spirit leads and will DO whatever He says. I can’t help but recall what Nate Bramsen said recently, “Yes, you are called to carry the cross, BUT Jesus is the one who died on it!”
Jesus did the hardest part! He conquered the unconquerable so that we could share in His victory! The rest is up to you. Who are you going to deny this year? Who are you going to follow?