Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…. For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:24–25, 27).
We’ve spent a lot of time in this study laying our lives down, and rightfully so. Our hearts need to be prepared to receive what God has for us, and that means loosening up the soil of our hearts so that we can bear good fruit. After all, as you read repeatedly last week, “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).
So finally, we move on to the “what he has done” (Matthew 16:27) part—the good fruit our lives have always been meant to bear in Christ. This isn’t about being “missional” (as if that idea were some breakthrough unique to the twenty-first-century church). This is about walking in the realization that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
There’s a prayer I’ve started putting before the Lord recently, and it while it sounds a bit odd to our modern ears, I’m betting something like it was a lot more popular even 150 years ago: “Lord, help me to take joy in your commandments.” Because let’s face it: We don’t. We don’t really believe Jesus when he says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29). Instead, we scramble to find ways to serve visibly; without any sense of rest whatsoever. I’m no exception.
If we could just believe that God truly wants our best, then all the fear, all the striving, all the shame—everything we’ve dealt with here—would be a moot point.
Let’s circle back to where we left off in Romans 6—only this time let’s focus on the section we skipped over:
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:8–11).
We—are—dead in Christ. Dead to sin. Dead to ambition. Dead to our past. Dead to anxiety.
And yet, we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. Alive to obey. Alive to rejoice in his good work through us. Alive to walk wherever he calls us to, because his calling is sure.
By submitting every piece of our lives to Christ—and at the same time realizing who we truly are in Christ—we’re being prepared to live in the way Jesus has always wanted. Thus, we don’t do works for ourselves—or even to show the world how great Christianity is—but solely to give glory to God. If no-one sees our good works but “[our] Father who sees in secret” (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18), that is enough. And should “[our] light shine before others, so that [others see our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16) it is God’s glory, and it is our joy to see it.
Your life is no longer yours. Stop behaving as if it is. You cannot force God to lead you into the next phase of your life. You can renounce all you have and entrust it to him, move when he tells you to move, and rejoice that he considered you worthy to be trusted with anything. Pick up your cross. Consider yourself dead to sin and alive in Jesus. And truly begin to follow the One who carried your cross before you were even born.
Lay It Down Today
Another way we’ve been preparing to bear good fruit throughout this study has been these daily assignments. Other assignments this week will be smaller, but because this one’s long-term—again, there is life beyond this study—I want you to start thinking about it today.
I’ve asked some form of this question repeatedly. Now I’m going to ask it again: What has God been impressing on your heart—and you’ve been doing nothing about—for way too long? This week, it’s time to start doing something about it.
Get out a piece of paper, and begin writing down ideas. Who do you need to talk to, or what other actions do you need to take, to begin making this happen? You don’t have to know everything—or maybe even anything—except that God’s given you this burden and that it’s time to start dealing with it. Do expect that as you move forward, God will honor your steps of faith and guide you in the ways you need to go.
If this isn’t where you’re at—or you know you’re already where God wants you—spend your time today thanking God for that. Give him the glory for what he’s already doing, and ask him to keep your heart open so that you can continue to respond as he wants, when he wants.