A Quest for More
Stories: Brian Reinhardt
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Lk 9:23-24)
As a Christian - a partaker in the gospel, a drinker of the cup of grace, and washed by the blood of the Jesus - this command to actually follow the one I call Lord seemingly would not be hard. But in reality, it is a command that I am constantly tripping over. Why is that?
My little kingdom vs. God’s Kingdom
The one that I proclaim to be "King of kings" and "Lord of lords" offers me a totally undeserved life in His Kingdom. But I often choose to live in places other than His Kingdom. When I put the idea on paper, it seems ridiculous. So, why do I do it? Paul David Tripp, in his book Quest for More, describes this as building our little kingdoms and looking for satisfaction there. He contrasts this with living in God’s Kingdom, which is where God created and designed us to live.
But again, why would I choose my little kingdom over God’s incredible, awe-inspiring, indescribable kingdom? If I am honest, my kingdom continues to leave me unsatisfied, so why would continue to choose it? Because, the lens through which I see God, myself and the world around me, is messed up. I am believing the crafty serpent again, and again, and again. I see my little kingdom as the place for which I was built. I believe that I am getting a bad deal if I deny myself, lose my life and live in His Kingdom. I believe I know better. I want to be the king!
Who is the King? What is his Kingdom like?
Jesus says He is the King. He tells us He came not to lord it over us like the kings of this world, but rather to rescue us from living the life of insanely trying to be kings of our own little kingdoms. Not only that, He tells us that as we give up that which we hold so dear, we actually live real life.
No Pain, No Gain
What does this look like practically? Jesus says to follow Him; we must deny ourselves. So, our time, talents, money, and even our love is not meant to be spent on our kingdoms, but rather it is to be spent for His Kingdom.
I am outside working through my “to-do” agenda for the day when there is an opportunity to visit with neighbors that we are trying to get to know. What rules in my heart: my “to-do” list, or developing deeper relationships? A non-believing neighbor (that has been hard for me to know) has all of the sudden had his world turned upside down. Am I willing to step into the awkwardness and, again, pursue a relationship?
Children fill my world, and it can be difficult for me to be patient with them. I don’t want my afternoon spent dealing with the additional parenting involved in having them at my home. Am I willing to die to my selfishness to love those around me? My children (I have 4, that are 8 years old and younger) overwhelm me with either legitimate questions or misbehavior. I do not have the patience to love them well. Am I going to die to “my agenda” and love them like Jesus loves me? Do I see real life as treating them with gentleness, kindness, and self control?
When friends make decisions differently from how I would make them or parent differently than I would, in whose kingdom am I living? None of these differences are sin. Am I going to hold them to some standard that I have set in my mind as “right” and cling to my “righteousness”?
I walk away from family gatherings complaining about family members. Often, my complaints have nothing to do with God’s standards, but my own standards. What is the driving force in my heart: that they would know Jesus as King, or that they would act as I want them to?
From Death to Life
I am a follower of Jesus. The tension is that there are places in my heart that do not believe. In those areas, I do not believe that denying myself, taking up my cross, and losing my life for the sake of Jesus is life. In those areas, I still believe dying to myself is death. How are those areas reached? Knowing Jesus through His Word. Knowing Jesus in prayer. Knowing Jesus in gospel-centered community. The poison that is “living life for my kingdom” has to be exposed. It is exposed in the context of community—with the Holy Spirit, my wife, and others who know and see my heart. My heart must continue to be exposed…daily. Then it must be healed by the only salve that saves…the blood of Jesus. This is the only way to true life.