REDISCOVERING THE ANCIENT PATH—Week of February 21, 2021
Follow Christ: Matt. 16:24
We are in Week 3 of our examination of Benedict of Nursia’s rules for Christian formation. This week we will continue our journey down this ancient path by examining Rule 4.10: Follow Christ.
What does it mean to “follow Christ?” If you were to ask 100 different people that question, you would likely receive 100 different answers. In our modern American context, our emphasis on freedom of expression and opinion tends to infiltrate every aspect of our thinking, including our faith and praxis (i.e. how we do things, or our customs). But for the early Church, this was not so. The early Church defined their faith using the Scriptures, the Creeds, and the traditions passed down to them from the Apostles. They defined their way of life—a way that many times included persecution and even martyrdom—by Christ’s admonition that his followers were to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. Ancient believers could easily identify with this charge, as some of them literally had to face death on a cross. But how do we modern believers identify with what Jesus is asking of us? What does this charge look like in a modern context?
I believe the answer can be found in what Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (ESV). When Jesus said on the cross “It is finished,” not only was He sealing our eternal salvation, He was also empowering us in this life to breathe our last breaths for self. We can now say “It is finished” to any selfish ambitions, hopes and dreams, or desires and expectations, which do not align with God’s calling and direction in our lives. We are now free to be resurrected to a new life lived for God’s glory, a life surrendered to God’s hopes, dreams, and expectations for us, because they are exceedingly abundantly better than anything we can imagine.
But if I’m being completely honest with myself and with God, I have a problem. I am still struggling on that cross. I am holding onto to that last breath of self, unable or unwilling to allow myself to die to what I want my life to be so that God can resurrect me to a new life that is fully submitted to what Jesus has for me, trusting that his plan for my life is far better than mine. I am happy to let Jesus seal my eternity, but I am not so sure that I want him getting too involved in my “now.”
If we are willing to take that last breath for self, to say, “It is finished” to our control and expectations, then we can truly experience the peace and freedom that comes with being a fully devoted follower of Christ. When we die to self, we are free to live lives of eternal purpose, lives that seek what’s best for others and the glory of God. It is only when we die to self that we find who we were always meant to be.
- When you hear Christ’s command to take up your cross and follow Him, what images and emotions come to mind?
- Where are the areas of your life where you seek to maintain control? What might it look like to say “It is finished,” to your desire for control in that area?
- How might dying to your expectations or desires impact your relationships with others? Are there any particular relationships where adopting this attitude might provide an immediate impact?
- Dying to self is not a one-time event. It is something that you must determine to do daily. What are some habits or spiritual disciplines you could develop that would help you adopt this attitude daily?