I want to start by recapping the last post’s argument about this. I have to say that this is an important and seminal thought for me. In human experience we have a problem in that the idea of moral and desirable good are split – we are often wanting what we know is wrong, and rather despise what is right. It is almost laughable to say that you love the moral way of living. In fact, a lot of movies show a kind of ‘coming out’ moment when the protagonist casts off the fear of traditional ideas of the good and embraces their true desire. This is not a recent thing, not a political thing, not an American problem. It is universal and true for all of humanity, from Eve and the serpent on. God is working to bring us back to a place where what we honestly want coincides with what is right.
I want to expand on something I only hinted at last time. If this is so, this is the work of God, then why am I still struggling. Surely I’m missing something, I’ve gone too far with this idea. It can’t be right! What about these kinds of verses, you can’t just throw them out:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24, NASB.
“For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Galatians 5:17, NASB.
This fairly well disproves my last post doesn’t it? Righteousness, holiness, godliness, is not about getting what you want, it is about DENYING yourself what you want! Perhaps, but perhaps we should look at these passages a little closer.
Jesus says, “if anyone WISHES to come after me.” We have a wish, a desire, to come after Jesus. In context, there has just been another debacle with the pharisees, but Jesus has taken the disciples off by themselves, and has asked them, “who do people say that I am?” Then He says, who do YOU say that I am, and Peter says, the Christ. It is at this time, this first time, that He begins to explain that He will die and be resurrected. Peter is alarmed, and takes Jesus aside to rebuke Him. This is the context – Peter, the one who first proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God, rebukes Jesus about all of this talk about suffering many things and dying. Jesus is replying to this.
What does He say? He says, you want me to stop talking about suffering and dying? Actually, not only will I suffer, but all who wish to follow me will suffer. You have found this great treasure – the Messiah, the son of God, has come! You wish to follow. You must go and sell all you have to get this treasure – but you don’t know how much you must sell, just as you do not know the extent of the incredible value of the treasure you have stumbled upon. You must sell your very self, deny your very self, if you wish to obtain this great thing. I am going to suffer, and if you follow Me, you will have to learn this. The writer of Hebrews put this all in perspective:
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2, 3, NIV.
He did it for the joy set before Him, a joy which was not taken away. The point of all of this isn’t suffering, it isn’t the cross itself, it is the difficult passage to joy. Have you ever thought, if the Father so loved Jesus, why did He make His son suffer so? Why the cross? Even Jesus says,
“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” –which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” Matthew 27:46, NIV.
Perhaps it is the exact same formula as the garden. In the garden, there is one thing which is forbidden; every tree is OK, except the one, and yet Adam chose the one. Here is Jesus, and God is basically saying, we are going to up the ante so your success is all the more dramatic. Everything, all human experience, has now become the forbidden; that is the ultimate end of the law. I am narrowing what I require, the law, to even being alive. For Adam, the whole world was OK except for the one tree, and yet he chose poorly. For Jesus, the tables turned, and the whole world was off limits except for death, and still He chose correctly. Jesus fulfilled the law in the most ultimate sense, in that He obeyed an edict which was absolutely against any normal human desire, and still obeyed that imposition upon His desire.