One of the most memorable vacation days with our kids was spent in a Jeep. We had set up camp near Durango Colorado. One day we wove our way into Silverton, rented a Jeep for the day, and explored a driving trail called the Alpine Loop. Occasionally we’d leave the trail in search of ghost towns marked out on the map. Because of the wild and unmarked nature of the roads we began to develop a catchphrase – we can always turn around and go back. That phrase is still repeated when we travel an unfamiliar road to a hoped-for destination. If we’re wrong, we can always turn around. While there is some truth in “we can always turn around” there is also another truth that reminds us that walking with Jesus is a one-way trip.
Have you ever considered the grace involved in being able to change our heart, mind, and course? The Bible word for this is repent – to turn around or away from and go in a different direction. Some friends of ours recently made a purchase that hasn’t worked out. They have changed their minds about it and desire to return it. In other words, they want to repent of their purchase. The problem is that the store refuses to allow them to return the item. What if God acted like that? Sinner: “I’d like to repent of my sin” God: “Nope, you made your choice, you’re stuck with it.” God instead invites us, desires us, woos us, and convicts us, to turn around and lovingly offers us the grace to do so.
There also a second truth. Jesus said, “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27, NIV) There are many wrong-headed ideas about what it means to carry your cross. Illness, famine, riches, conflict, depression, struggles, pain, family, flaws, and abilities are not the crosses Jesus was talking about. A person condemned to death by crucifixion was forced to carry the crossbar to the place of execution. It was a one-way journey, the condemned person would not be coming back. Carrying our cross means continually dying to ourselves and living for Christ. Walking with Jesus is a one-way trip.
Let’s be practical for a moment. What does it really mean to die to self and live for Jesus? What does carrying our cross look like? In the verse before Luke 14:27 Jesus says a very hard word, ““If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NIV) Hate, like love, must be considered in the context of a relationship. Hate and love are not absolute, there are many shades, many expressions of each. Jesus did not mean that we are to hate in the sense of Cain, to desire our brother’s destruction for our own gain. But that we must not elevate our love for our family or ourselves above that of our love for Jesus. When push comes to shove we choose Jesus over the desires of self and others.
A few verses later Jesus adds another category we must put to death, our love for stuff. Jesus said, “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33, NASB95) This does not mean we must live as a hermit or in some commune but that none of our stuff, or the desire for things, is more important than our love of Jesus. Neither is “possessions” restricted to physical things but includes all that we count as being ours such as time, ideas, desires, philosophies, abilities, rights, responsibilities, entertainment, and entitlements. Here’s the test, if Jesus said to you today to give away or give up your most cherished possession would you do it? Look at your life, what is more important to you than Jesus?
Walking with Jesus is a one-way journey. Sure we turn sometimes when we shouldn’t, we may take a wrong path and find ourselves entangled in sin, but there is grace to turn around again. Our journey, however, is not defined by the sin we’ve turned from or the sin we’ve avoided but by each cross embracing step we’ve taken in our walk with Christ. As Jesus said, “ For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24, NASB95)