Sentenced to Gitmo with Jesus

Jim Hamilton writes:

The word about taking up the cross to follow Jesus probably sounded like a call to risk Roman retribution when Jesus spoke it (Matt. 10:38). In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, the word calls the followers of Jesus to lay down their lives by faith for others in obedience to God, just as Jesus did. Herein is the paradox that condemns all selfishness, and through judgment comes the salvation of living for others to God’s glory by faith: “The one who finds his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life on account of me will find it” (10:39).

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. pgs 371-372.

I found this paragraph fascinating and troubling. It was fascinating for me because I had never really thought about the call to pick up my cross as a call to risk retribution by my own government. These would have been frightfully chilling words. Embrace revolution. Embrace radicalization. Uneducated though they may be, Jesus’ fishermen disciples knew exactly what He was calling them to do. Jesus was calling the disciples to a way of life that put them at odds with the most powerful military force the planet had ever seen. And not only that, but this life was also going to mark them out as the worst scum in the Empire. Crucifixion was reserved for only vilest of criminals. Rome would not even subject their own citizens to the punishment. However, the pain and torment of crucifixion was only part of the punishment. There was also a deep shamefulness associated with the cross. This is to what Jesus called his disciples. A life that would be marked by shame, humiliation and most likely death at the hands of your own government. Strangely, this is the only way to eternal life (Matthew 10:39). Against everything our natural inclinations tells us, embracing death really means embracing life. This is quite a paradox. One that only the Gospel can reconcile peaceably.

Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

The troubling aspect of this paragraph hit me as I wondered how many in today’s churches would resign their membership if pressed to make such a commitment. Rather, I wonder how many would be willing to risk not only their lives, but also to be marked out as the worst sort of person. I wonder how many Christians would remain so, if it meant being associated with terrorists. Average Joe American hates nothing more than a terrorist. All the images of 9/11 coming flooding back at just the mention of the word. And I believe that if Jesus was here today, instead of calling Americans to pick up their cross and follow him, Jesus might say “risk being sentenced to Guantanamo Bay and follow me.” Now that would wake people up. Can you imagine their reaction? Our worthiness of following Jesus is tied up exactly in whether or not we think He’s worth terroristic associations and terroristic charges. If we take seriously our commitments to Jesus, it will not be a stretch for the world to label us as terrorists. For the sword we bear is capable of exposing the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12) and darkness does not like to be exposed (Eph. 5:11).

The question that lays before us is, will we follow Jesus no matter what the cost? Will we follow him, even if the path to death led through Gitmo? I pray that answer is yes. For it is the only way to eternal life.

~sdg

PS – One of my pastors (Pastor Jeremy Haskins) preached a great sermon on this passage after I had written this post. I highly commend it to you. You will be challenged and edified!

His Banner Over Us Is Death! The Sword of the Kingdom Kills Your Best Life Now (Matthew 10:34-39)

If you would like to hear more preaching like this, you can subscribe to my church’s podcast on iTunes or listen to more sermons here.

Power of the Cross

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. – I Corinthians 1:17

There is something about the cross that just draws people. It is powerful in it’s draw of the elect. The last half of the first chapter of I Corinthians is all about the cross and its affect on people. It is very peculiar how some peopel respond to the cross. According to Paul, there are three responses to the cross from three types of people.

First, the Jew sees the cross as offensive. Paul calls it a stumbling block. A crucified messiah was (and is) offensive to the orthodox Jew. They believed the Messiah would usher in true freedom for the Jewish people. A messiah who was crucified is no messiah for the Jew. The cross is a revulsion to the Jew.

Second, the Greek sees the cross as foolishness. While the gods of that day (and our day) were temperamental and moody, no Greek would ever follow a god who could be killed. What kind of god gets killed by the very people he came to save? There has been early grafiti found that depicts a man on a cross with the head of a jackass with another man below the cross worshiping. The caption reads, “Achimedes worships his god.” To the western mind, a crucified god is ludicrous.

The final group of people are simply labeled by Paul as “those who are being saved.” They represent both Jew and Greek. Their response is something of joy combined with adoration. In verse 18, Paul gives their response. It (the Cross) becomes the power of God. What an odd response. Paul says that they are called. To some people it just clicks. Something inside of them says, “Yes!” They jump at the cross and embrace it and love it. I believe this text is teaching the doctrine of unconditional election. The something that makes the cross powerful is God’s unconditional electing love. It’s not like these Jews and Greeks are some how smarter than those who reject it. In fact, Paul says that most of them were weak and lowly…that God chose them to shame the strong and puffed up. It is not man, but God who acts and works. Regardless of your thoughts on the doctrines of grace, I do believe we can coalesce around the following.

We spend too much time not preaching the cross. We have all these diversions. Fancy screens, big choirs, cool music…the list is endless. We are long on the things Paul was short on. He says in I Corinthians 2:1 that he did not use lofty speech or wisdom. He made known only Christ crucified. Paul was the greatest missionary of all time. Perhaps we should follow his lead. Didn’t Christ say he would build His church? Why do we spend so much time trying to convince people to choose something they find stupid? We try so hard to make church friendly and light, in the hope more people will come, but once their there, are they there because they love the Cross of Jesus, or because they feel good? Heaven and Hell are weighty matters. Salvation is a weighty matter. Why are most church services so light and fluffy? The implications are scary! Perhaps we should spend more time worrying about proclaiming Christ crucified. I would be willing to bet that God would grant many to come to true salvation.

Some people are just going to reject the cross. It is their nature to reject it. Why do we change everything we do to attract people into the church who reject the idea of the cross? Why do we want that? We water down the gospel and risk lulling people into a false sense of eternal security. We need to be like Paul. Let Christ build the church and just preach the cross! To those whom eternal life has been appointed will be drawn and saved.

~sdg