My last article ended in this way:
When we die with Christ, we put to death all of our usual sources of happiness and security: being accepted by our community, the need to be right, legalistic righteousness, and even sinless perfection.
Instead, we understand that knowing Christ is more important than temporary relationships (Matthew 10:34-39), being known by God is better than knowing things about God (1 Corinthians 8:1-3), imputed righteousness is far superior than anything we think we can earn (Romans 4:1-8), and acknowledging that we make mistakes frees us from guilt associated with those mistakes (1 John 1:6-10).Daniel Rogers (“Thoughts on Resurrection” 11-10-2020)
In this article, I’ll focus on the first item in the list and discuss briefly why resurrection life demands we relinquish our earthly relationships. First, the passage:
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.Matthew 10:37-38
Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.Mark 10:29-30
This is not to say that we give up loving those important in our life or that we are to abandon them in a time of need, but that we must first and foremost align ourselves with Christ.
If there is any way in which He calls us, we must follow that way before asking, “How may this hurt my relationship with him?” Or “In what may might I lose influence or credibility with her?” Lot, though he hesitated, was urged along by God:
But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city.Genesis 19:16
If we tether ourselves to a person or group that is not ready or is unable to grow spiritually, we make it impossible for us to grow outside of that groups decided comfort zone.
This hinders us from becoming more like Christ, and, in turn, keeps us back from ways that we can selflessly serve others in His kingdom.
This is a problem many preachers face. Because of their many hours of study and mediation, they have the opportunity to grow in knowledge exponentially faster than many in their congregation, especially those who do not consider spiritual things outside of the assembly. So, if he, in his studies, reaches a conclusion that differs from what the majority believes, regardless of their efforts in studying, he is at risk of losing his income. Unless he is willing to “leave house or brother…” then he will only be able to grow as much as the community allows him, or he can go against his conscience, teach something he doesn’t hold to himself, and live a life of anxiety that someone will discover what he really believes: then he will be a hypocrite and a “false teacher.” Whereas had he spoken up, he would be considered a false teacher, but he wouldn’t be a hypocrite.
This isn’t just true of preachers though; it is true for anyone who spends any extra time outside of the assembly attempting to objectively study the Bible and rethink old positions. Many of you have lost loved ones over your convictions, and I applaud you for sticking with them regardless of what trouble you have faced or will face.
There is a time for intentionally staying “in the world” while not being “of the world” when trying to reach someone who can’t “bear” some truth yet. However, shaking the dust off one’s feet eventually becomes necessary when your spiritual well-being is at stake.
After 40 years of patience with their unbelieving Jewish brethren, for example, the Hebrews writer eventually had to say:
So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.Hebrews 13:13-14
14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
Up to that point they were still zealous for the law in order that they may win some to Christ, but their need to go outside the camp outweighed the stubbornness of their brethren. While God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance, the day of judgement was quickly approaching as it was in the days of Lot. To stay behind in that state of artificial comfort would mean destruction for the saints as well.
Another example of this is Jesus Himself. Jesus knew the importance of teaching and reaching out to those who needed Him the most, but He also saw how necessary it was to go into the wilderness for periods of prayer, reflection, and meditation. Without these occasions to recharge His spiritual batteries, Jesus would not have been operating at peak efficiency. When facing the Cross, Jesus retreated into the garden to pray so that He could bear the burden of the Cross. Jesus’ death on the Cross was the ultimate retreat into the wilderness. It was His final exodus from the world below (Luke 9:31).
We may follow a similar pattern to Jesus. We may retreat for awhile, come back again, retreat, return, etc. until it comes time for us to “go outside the camp.”
Although Paul had faith, he still “lived in the flesh” so that he could convert his brothers and sisters (Galatians 2:20). This is why he said that he had yet to be perfect and obtain the resurrection (Philippians 3:12-14). As long as he was tethered to his old community in some way, his perfection was yet to be seen. This is why the fall of the temple is connected with resurrection. It was the last element of the old world to pass away, the last thing veiling who God really is.
Likewise, if we are not willing to eventually “leave behind” those in our life who hold us back from serving God, then we postpone our ability to truly know Him. This does not come from a selfish place, and it doesn’t mean we can’t go back to them eventually in some way, but it is an understanding that we cannot truly let our light shine if we depend upon these various “baskets” for our spiritual happiness and look to them for approval instead of God.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.Matthew 5:14-15
In order to win the world, we must die to the world. You may hesitate, but learn, like Lot, to trust the way in which God is tugging your hand. Resurrection is on the other side of the Cross.