I imagine you can see pretty clearly that being like the disciples when they say in Mark 10:28: ‘We've left everything to follow you!', is much better than the rich man who won't let go of his money bag. Of course, the young man will be last later but the disciples are ready to be last now. In a sense it's obvious, but in practice, it's awfully difficult (if not impossible) for us to live with this perspective. How do we go about living like this? What does it mean, in practice, to lose your life now?
To give an illustration of what I think Jesus requires I would go to the new American western movie released last month - ‘True Grit'. The film is a remake of an old western starring John Wayne (pictured) which I watched at university. John Wayne's character in the film is far from perfect, but he does have the attribute of ‘true grit'. In the cowboy world ‘grit' effectively means being willing to put your life on the line for a noble cause. And, whilst I do rather fancy myself as a cowboy, I don't want to point out much more than that. It's an exciting, challenging picture to put everything we have (our money, our life...) on the line for the noble cause of following and serving Jesus.
So, where do we start? "I believe" the father of the demon-possessed child cried out, in chapter 9, "Help my unbelief". If you don't believe that there's going to be life after death, then you can't be expected to live like there is. The England cricketer, CT Studd, who went to China as a missionary once said: "If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." Most of us would give this aphorism a hearty Amen; but are our actions really this centred on Jesus? I certainly feel that, in my actions, I'm like the father of the demon-possessed child: a mixture of belief and unbelief. If you're like me we need Jesus' help! The solution is to go to Jesus fervently in prayer, asking him to help us believe. Also, it means reading the Bible and letting the Spirit's power transform our outlook on life so that we are better equipped mentally and spiritually to live out what we say we believe.
Back in Mark 8:34, Jesus said. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it." Losing your life now is basically synonymous with being willing to give up your life and everything you have for Jesus, and for the gospel. In other words, it's having Jesus as your number one priority. If Jesus is number one, what will this look like in practice? Generally, it will look like a life that's got Jesus at the top of our priority list. This is a pretty hard thing to do and we cannot expect to do it without God's help to believe.
This general view can be broken down, more practically, into individual decisions we are called to make. I don't think all decisions are ‘save your life' or ‘lose your life' decisions. Coke or Pepsi - it doesn't matter. However, we need God's wisdom to see the ones that are.
- ‘Do you really believe that there'll be life after death?' asks the colleague;
- ‘Will you serve your brother/sister in this costly way?' asks the church leader;
- ‘Do I take that promotion that could leave me without time for God?' you think to yourself;
- ‘Will you go out with me?' asks the non-Christian boy/girl;
- ‘Do I give some money to gospel work or keep it for my little luxuries?' you ask yourself.
These decisions will determine the big picture of whether or not you are losing your life now for Jesus. What we desperately need God to give us for hard decisions is the boldness that comes from belief. It's genuinely hard to make these whole life decisions for Jesus; they are not without their consequences. We need boldness to bite the bullet and follow Jesus to cross.
We need ‘true grit'.