Without a doubt, the greatest life is the Christian one, because we are living life as it was meant to be: in fellowship with the God who created us, discovering the unique plan He has for each of us. The Christian life is more than just having your sins forgiven and acquiring fire insurance. It is knowing Jesus Christ, not only as a friend and a Savior, but also as your Lord and your God.
Unfortunately, many have lost sight of this in the church today. I believe that many are settling for a Christianity that is simply not biblical. A Christianity, so called, that embraces Jesus as Savior, but neglects Him as Lord. A Christianity that is big on self-esteem, but small on self-denial.
If our faith is not turning us upside-down, then how can we expect it to turn the world upside-down? We need to get back to the Christianity of the New Testament. We need to get back to the kind of faith that was practiced by the apostles and taught by Jesus.
As we look at the lives of those early believers, they may seem radical in some ways, but that was normal Christianity. If we are not living a Christian faith like they had, then we are settling for something less than what God desires.
What we need, in short, is something called discipleship. Every disciple is a believer but every believer is not necessarily a disciple. What does it take to be a disciple? Jesus gave us some clear answers to this question.
The foundational requirement for being a disciple of Jesus Christ is that you must deny yourself. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23).
We essentially have a choice in life: either to live for ourselves or to deny ourselves, to ignore the cross or to take it up, to seek to save our lives and ultimately lose them, or to lose or invest our lives and ultimately find them.
It seems insane that anyone would not choose God's way, but sadly, most do not. The obstacle is something called "self."
So often today we hear about the importance of self-image, self-love, self-worth, and self-esteem. Sadly, we hear it proclaimed from our pulpits: "Doesn't the Scripture say, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'? First you have to love yourself, and then you love your neighbor." Wrong.
The Bible is not teaching you to first love yourself and then love your neighbor. Rather, it is teaching that you already love yourself, so now love your neighbor. In fact, the Bible says, "For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it..." (Ephesians 5:29). We already have self-love. Now we need to love others in the same way.
You will hear people say, "I am trying to find myself." But Jesus says that if you want to find yourself, then lose yourself. If you want to find your life, deny yourself.
If you will seek holiness, if you will seek the will of God, then you will find happiness as a by-product. But if you try to chase after blessings, you will never find them. If instead you choose to be a blessing to others, suddenly you will be blessed. If you will stop focusing on and being obsessed with yourself, and instead deny yourself, Jesus says that you will find life. If you lose your life, you will find it.
It is an amazing thing. It seems paradoxical. It seems contradictory. It seems upside-down. Maybe it is — to this world's way of thinking. But God says that if you want to find life, then you lose it.
Jesus said, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?" (Luke 9:25).
If you chase after fulfillment and happiness, you will never find it. But if you will get your priorities in order and follow Jesus Christ as His disciple, then you will find everything that you need in life. That is what Jesus is saying.
This is not a miserable existence. It is the best existence.
You have heard the expression, "Finders, keepers; losers, weepers." We could take what Jesus is saying and call it "losers, keepers." The person who loses his or her life, in reality, keeps it.
What does Esther have in common with Rahab? Or Ruth with Tamar? They seem like diametrically opposed personalities. Shannon Bream gives insightful answers to those questions in her new book. We will mail you a copy when you make a donation of any amount to Harvest Ministries today!