April 29, 2013
We talked in the last blog about taking up our cross and following Jesus. And the whole point of the cross is to provide the device for crucifixion, for the death of the one being crucified thereon. That’s what happened to Jesus – He was crucified on the cross He carried out the city gates of Jerusalem so long ago. So when He says to us in Mark 8:34, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me,” He is telling us to follow Him out to die – die to ourselves so we can live for God – so God can live through us.
Now this was all a mystery to me for a long time. How do I die to myself? How can I let the Lord effectively and consistently live through me? It seems like I got in the way far too much! As Dr. Rogers, my theology professor in seminary used to say, “The problem is, everywhere I go, I go too!”
Then I learned the secret of The Most Important Prayer A Christian Can Pray.
If you ask believers, “What is the most important prayer a Christian can pray?” …the answer you will often receive is “Why, it is the sinner’s prayer!” This refers to the tax collector in the temple in Luke 18:13 who prayed, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Important? Yes! This is the most important prayer a non-Christian can pray – or some form of that prayer, confessing to God his need of a Savior because he is a sinner.
But The Most Important Prayer A Christian Can Pray is modeled by Jesus Himself when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:41 and 42 (NKJV):
And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down, and
prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless
not my will, but Yours, be done.”
Did you get that? Jesus did not want to go to the cross. He did not want to endure the horrific physical torture of the next several hours. But more, He did not want to be made sin and sinner before His holy Father and have the Father’s wrath poured out upon Him. He was totally holy and sin-free before being nailed to the cross. He had never been separated from His Father. But Jesus would be made sin and sinner and take the punishment of every misdeed and rebellion against God committed by man through history! He was repulsed by that! And He pleaded with the Father to “…remove this cup from Me….” That is what Jesus wanted from His own will! And yet He prayed, “…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
The problem with you and me is the sinful nature within us. We want what we want! Never mind what God wants! This selfishness lies at the root of all sin! And dying to one’s self is sincerely praying what Jesus cried out to the Father in the garden, “…nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done.” “It doesn’t matter what I want, Lord. What do You want? Tell me and I will do it!” This is the best way – the only way – to die to yourself – to be crucified – so God can live His life through you.
And it is not a one time decision, either. How often have I decided to follow Jesus and ten minutes later something comes along, and I say, “Forget what I said, Lord. I’ll take over from here!” No, it is a moment-by-moment attitude of prayer that confronts every decision which we find ourselves facing! Jesus alluded to this in Luke’s version of the Lord’s challenge to His followers: “And He said to them all, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23 – emphasis added). Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:31, “I die DAILY.” (emphasis added). Following Jesus is a moment-by-moment decision to let Him be Lord!
What is the alternative? Remember the light and easy yoke Jesus invites us to share with Him (Matthew 11:28)? The alternative is the heavy and hard weight of sin! Yes, you are making your own decisions. But actually what you are then saying is, “…nevertheless not Your will, but MINE, be done!” And that is dangerous!
My own testimony? I called the shots of my life for a long time, both before I became a Christian at age 19 and for a long time after. I have gone through addictions, anger, depression, even suicidal thoughts. I hurt far too often, and life was a struggle. I have found rest, joy, peace and a lot more – only as I yield to my Lord’s will. Do I do it all the time? No. I still struggle with wanting my own way. But I am learning, and I expect I will keep on learning until God calls me home.
But one very important gem I have learned is The Most Important Prayer A Christian Can Pray: “…nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done.” Simple! Not easy, but simple!