Living the crucified life with Christ
One of the goals in evangelism and making God known is that people see the worth of Jesus Christ as their supreme treasure and consequently commit their lives to Him as their Lord and King. When people know how valuable Christ is and come to know His supreme authority over all of life, and that His kingdom will never end (Isaiah 9:6-9), it becomes evident that they should follow His instructions, no matter the cost involved! Following Jesus Christ and receiving Him as one’s Master and Lord involves a cost. Salvation is by free sovereign grace but having Christ in one’s life involves sacrifice: we have to endure hardship and suffering in following Jesus.
All people who live on this planet undergo suffering and hardship of some kind, whether it be physical, emotional, psychological or otherwise. Unbeliever and believer alike undergo suffering. Because we live in a fallen world, because sin entered the world and because God has subjected the world to futility (Romans 8:21-23), all people undergo suffering. But that is not the kind of suffering Jesus was speaking about when he said the following to his disciples:
“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 will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV).
He said that if we want to be his disciples, we will have to undergo suffering. To take up one’s cross in ancient times meant one was going to one’s death. Criminals who took up their crosses for their crimes were crucified because of their transgressions against the Roman Empire. So, when Jesus said you will have to take up your cross, it meant that we must be willing to die for him. In other words, if we are Christians our allegiance to God should come before our allegiance towards anything else.
Being a Christian and the goal of evangelism have a yet deeper significance. If we are united with Christ, we have been intimately identified with Him. We have died with Christ and we live with Him (Romans 6:1-11). This means we have to put to death the deeds of the body and our own sinful desires. The apostle Paul said: “if you through the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body you shall live” (Romans 8:13) and:
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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.”
(Galatians 2:19-20 ESV)
We should die daily with Christ. We are crucified with him. The world and its lusts are crucified to us and we to them! (Galatians 6:16,17). We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:19). We are pilgrims and strangers in this world. Our home is in heaven! We are passing through this world and battling against evil. This is because we still live in this body which tempts us; we must put to death the deeds of the body every day! And the world does not love righteousness; it loves evil and sin. So, when we stand for righteousness and love it, we stand up and speak out for truth and the gospel. The world will oppose, insult, and hate us. Members of one’s own family could do this. People in your workplace will oppose and insult you. It will become hard to follow Jesus. For example, many Christians lose their jobs because of unwillingness to compromise for their employers. Christians are being sued because they refuse to follow the evils of this world, e.g., because they refuse to condone homosexuality, blasphemy, transgenderism, evolutionism and ancestral worship.
The goal of evangelism is to share in the suffering of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:10-12).
It is the goal because there is no other way to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ!
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)
Why did Jesus say we are blessed when people insult us and revile us for righteousness sake and on his account? We are blessed because in suffering for Christ we become more acquainted with the death and life of Christ and therefore with Christ Himself. When we suffer for him, we experience the comfort of the Holy Spirit more, we are more encouraged, and the Spirit of glory rests on us to a greater degree! (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, 1 Peter 4:14). Paul said, “Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV). I have experienced many times when I evangelize that people oppose, insult, and even curse me. In 2011 when I spoke to a Rastafarian in Bloemfontein a man cursed me and Christ for about 5 minutes. I eventually just had to walk away because a huge crowd was forming around us! Another time after sharing the gospel, a Muslim woman threatened to kill me! On another occasion, when a friend and I shared the gospel with a group of Somalians in Johannesburg, one man pulled out a huge knife to stab my friend. By God’s grace I saw it in time and his life was spared. These reactions shouldn’t surprise us because Jesus warned that the world would hate us, Him, and the gospel! Living for Christ means to die daily to one’s own ideas, ambitions, and interests. It means dying to one’s selfish desires and pressing into the kingdom of God with force. To live for Christ means we are willing to make Him known and to know Him no matter the cost! It means we must be willing to forsake the approval of the world to know we are approved by Him.
“So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV).