When I thought about this subject all I could think of was “Conundrum.” It popped into my head. We speak and live in cognitive dissonance. What is puzzling is that we preach and claim the crucified life, but scripturally we don’t seem to match-up. The scriptures mention a few things worth looking at.
Matt 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. NIV
This begs the question, does our righteous surpass that of the Pharisees?
Luke 9:23-25 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? NIV
What does this look like? How can I tell if I am in self-denial, cross bearing, and following Him?
The first scripture is intertwined with the second. The general understanding of the first is that we are righteous, more righteous than the Pharisees because of Christ’s work on the cross. We are imputed righteous because of the faith in Jesus and the cleansing of the blood. Great! We could move on but. Shouldn’t we also exceed their practical, actualized righteousness?
The Pharisee did the religious part and were commended by Jesus: Yes commended: Tithing, praying, fasting and the like. But on the practical love of God, standing for justice, compassion, and mercy, they fell short. Ask yourself how are we different? Is there something we are doing distinctly different than them? If we know Him shouldn’t our goodness exceed theirs practically speaking? Obviously the answer is “yes”: We have the Holy Spirit, the unstoppable Spirit of Love. This is the enigma. Why isn’t their a difference? Hold this idea and let’s work into the next.
Deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him! Our typical understanding of this is fair but incomplete. It usually goes this way “Hypothetically, if we were asked by Jesus to give up home, profession, car, cha-cha-cha, would we do it?” We say “Yes!” Relieved that He probably won’t, we feel we are done. Because we said “yes” we are justified and feel it is accomplished. “He knows our heart.” This reminds me of a movie I watched of boy that could become invisible if no one was looking. lol
Another understanding is to remove hindrances. Those things that would hinder righteousness should be removed to fulfill this command. We abandoned friends, family, and habits for Jesus. Anything that caused us to stumble in our pursuit is removed. Take note that this must be done as a result of faith, proving our faith for salvation. Both this and superseding the righteous of the Pharisee is what happens under the power of this faith. Both are required: this reveals the truth of our faith.
Let’s look at the primary components: the denial, the cross, the following of Jesus. Put more concretely: Put away the bucket-list, expend your life-force on others like Jesus. We are no longer like cultural Christians or the good people of our community. Our life is filled with the trouble of others; our money and time are depleted. We hunt for trouble. Didn’t Jesus? It isn’t enough to wait for the hungry to beg bread or homeless to knock on our door. We are no longer satisfied with endless, motionless Biblical studies. Church service wouldn’t be complete without drawing a beggar to the bread line.
This cross is the place of sacrifice. He did and so do we. We are CHRISTIANS so now we sacrifice ourselves. We can’t take away the sins of the world but our sacrificial life helps them come to know Him. It isn’t hypothetical, faith can’t help itself. It doesn’t wait for a special invitation because it is a command. And the faithful are eager to fulfill it.
Those of faith are distinguished by this righteousness. This is the crucified life of self-denial; we walk as Jesus did: Daily sacrifice for the world.
So go to the jail, the homeless center, the food bank, and the mental health facility. Grab up the problems of those you find and help them along. Along the way, it easy to draw them to Jesus. Maybe 1 in 10 will come to Christ but still another nine will be helped. We win either way. Live outside the Conundrum; The Cross, this sacrificial life of love!