The third invitation that we find in this passage is this: Jesus invites us to share His resurrection.
The death that Jesus died led to His resurrection, and the death that He asks us to die -- a death to both sin and selfishness -- also leads to resurrection. We will have gone from death to life.
Hey, it's not a negative thing, it's a positive thing! It doesn't end up in darkness; it shows us the way to light.
And we don't lose anything -- we gain everything. Paul gave up everything to follow Christ -- he was hugely powerful and respected, a religious leader with oodles of authority. He lost that career, and most of his friends. But when he looked back, he said:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more,
I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I
may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)
And Paul also explained it to the Romans:
I’m using this freedom language because it’s easy to picture. You can readily
recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like
doing — not caring about others, not caring about God — the worse your life
became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as
you live in God’s freedom? (Romans 6:19, The Message)
I hope that you will not think I'm irreverent, but Jesus is not a party-pooper. He is not the spoiler of good times. He did not come to give us boredom, but to give us life.
It wears me out sometimes that some Christians want to be solemn and somber and oh-so-righteous all the time. It's like they think they simply cannot have fun -- that would be bad! I just don't think that is the case! Jesus is the Creator of joy, and of pleasant times and merriment. If He created joyfulness, then it can't be bad to celebrate or to have a sense of humor!
Yes, He came to give us life. He offers us His resurrection. And we cannot achieve the Christian life by our own efforts at being "good." That will never, ever work. It's not something that we can accomplish -- it is a life that must come from God. As we hear people say, "It's a God thing." It happens when His Holy Spirit enters our lives and begins His transforming work.
Sounds wonderful, right? But to many human beings who are self-confirmed "control freaks" it can also be frightening. They wonder what God will do to them, or with them. How can they give up control? Will people think they are strange, or even fanatical? How will they know how to act?
Max Lucado is a prolific writer, and in Six Hours One Friday he tells this story:
A missionary in Brazil had discovered a tribe of Indians in a remote part of the jungle near a large river. The tribe needed medical attention. A contagious disease was ravaging the population and they were desperately in need of medication. Many of them needed to be hospitalized. People were dying every day. There was a hospital not very far away, but in order to get there you had to cross the river. The people of the tribe would not cross it, because they believed that evil spirits lived in the river. They were certain that to enter the water would mean certain death — or worse. The missionary explained that he had crossed the river and nothing evil happened to him, but they were not convinced. The missionary took them to the bank and placed his hand in the water. Still they wouldn’t go in. He decided to walk into the water up to his waist; he even splashed water on his face. It made no difference. They were still afraid to enter the river. Finally, he dove into the river, swam beneath the surface until he emerged on the other side. Once there, he smiled and raised a triumphant hand into the air. He had entered the river and lived. It was then that the people of the tribe broke into a cheer and followed him across.
What will it take to convince us to dive in? The only thing that we will lose is our sickness (sin) and the only thing we will gain is wholeness and life! The fabulous news of the gospel is that someone has gone before us to the other side, and He has lifted His hand in victory. He assures us that we will not only survive, but we will have life -- better than we've ever known before!
Why would we pass this up? Why would we miss the life that God wants to give us, to keep the life that is causing us so many problems and is so ultimately unsatisfying?
Christ offers life in all its fullness:
The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and
have it to the full. (John 10:10)
Grab hold of that abundant life today!