Carrying the cross is at a cost. When we decide to choose God, we choose to deny ourselves and the world. This the responsibility that goes with the freedom we have in Jesus. There are sacrifices to be made. While grace of God is completely free, we don’t receive it and then just go on with our old usual way. Grace is free but obedience is not. God freely gave us eternal life through Jesus Christ but walking in that life with God entails a cost. The cost of denying ourselves and taking up our cross.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.’”– Matthew 15:24-25 (WEB)
Following Jesus is unfollowing the world. It is blocking the sinful ways. We follow God’s way, unfollow world’s way, and block the evil way. It is easier said than done. But it is what God requires to anyone who wants to follow Him. It is what glorifies God. It may not be easy all the time but God makes a way to enable us to obey Him. God works in us “both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Take a look at how contrasting this teaching of Jesus to what the world advocates. The world encourages us to love ourselves in a way that we give in to what we want and what gives us happiness and pleasure in life regardless of what God thinks. The world says, as long as we are happy and we are not harming anyone else, then every thing is fine. Have fun and be merry. But God says, love God, love others, deny self, and carry the cross and we will find LIFE. Isn’t that amazing? By denying ourselves when we follow Jesus Christ, we actually have life. Life that is fun, happy, joyful, peaceful, and secured. A blessed life.
Christians are godly deviant. A deviant, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is someone who strays from the social norm or from what is socially acceptable or from what is considered normal. Christians are not socially normal. Christians around the world know this to be true. We are bombarded with many forms of social norms which are not what the Bible teaches and we are expected to conform with it. And when we don’t, we are accused of being unloving, incosiderate, or even discriminating. We are pressed on both sides. Social expectations versus God’s expectations of us. And the real thing is, we are in a difficult situation.
This happened to Peter, the rest of the Jews, and even Barnabas. Peter who agreed and worked with Paul in the ministry for the Gentiles suddenly felt the strong social pressure and expectation from the “men who came from James” (Galatians 2:11). We don’t know who these men are but, obviously, they exercised great influence on the Jews because they were fearful of what they would think about them violating the law. The situation was, Peter ate with the Gentiles before the men came. Peter knew that the Gentiles were men and women who belong to God through Jesus Christ even when they were not Jews. The implication was that the Gentiles were uncircumcised. So, Peter ate with them freely. But a change of heart happened when these men arrived. Peter “drew back and separated himself fearing the circumcision party” (v.12). Not only this but even other Jews and Barnabas acted the same way towards the Gentiles. Paul corrected them publicly because they did not walk according to the truth of the gospel.
“But when I saw that they didn’t walk uprightly according to the truth of the Good News, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live as the Gentiles do, and not as the Jews do, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews do?’”– Galatians 2:14 (WEB)
We may be tempted to give in to social expectations as Peter did even when we know the truth in Jesus. Perhaps, there were times in the past when we had caved in for fear of social norms. Or, maybe, we just kept quiet by being neutral and lukewarm because we feared what people would say. Taking the principle from Paul’s words, “if we being Christians live as non-Christians do, why do we compel the non-Christians to live as the Christians do?”
As Christians we are to walk instep with the truth of the gospel. There is no other truth. It is Christ and His Word. We cannot follow Christ, deny ourselves, and carry the cross upholding and turning to diffferent “truths” to please people or society. We should not hide our light in this dark world. The world needs the light of Jesus. If we desire to see others following Jesus, then they need to see us walking daily in the truth as Christians should. Yes, we may fail being in the flesh like Peter did, but let us listen to the correction of God and repent from being double-minded and lukewarm. Let us head on straight to the path that Jesus set out for us through His grace that enables us to overcome, to obey, and to discern what is pleasing to Him. It can be done when we rely on God.
“Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.”– Romans 12:2 (WEB)
Christians are not to conform to the patterns of this world. We are to conform to God’s ways and by doing so we become godly deviants in the world. Be comfortable with that.