July 12, 2014

A Death to Life Story

Luke 9:21-26

[Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
—Luke 9:23


We have to give Jesus credit: he warned us.

Just as his disciples were getting excited about his claim to the kingdom of God, which they thought he might use against their Roman oppressors, Jesus set them straight. If they wanted to experience his victory, they would first need to follow him into defeat. There’s that gospel story line again: death leading to life.

Sometimes I’m not sure I want that. I don’t want to go down into the grave; I just want to have new life. I don’t want death and life; I just want life—and then more of it. I don’t want him to put my old self to death; I just want him to improve it. I want new life without the ugliness and pain of death.

At times like that I can easily miss the whole problem that the gospel is here to address. The Bible makes clear that you and I are broken people who need to be remade into the image of Christ. Yet what I often want is to remake God into the image of me. I want him to think like me, to want what I want—and I want his plans to match my grand designs.

Fortunately God doesn’t seem to take such demands very seriously. Instead, he steadily works in all things for my good (Romans 8:28). And I’m learning that I need to let him make me new, even if it kills me. 

Lord, so often we try to get you to follow us. Help us instead to follow you. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Ron Vanderwell

Ron Vanderwell recently became the senior pastor of New Life Church in New Lenox, Illinois. He has been a pastor for 22 years, serving as a church planter for the previous 12 years at The Gathering in Sacramento, California, and before that as a pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ron and his wife, Deb, have three sons: John, Adam, and Jake. Ron shares more of his reflections on “squinting” for God in his blog at www.squintforgod.com.

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