If you’ve been around me for long, it’s no secret that I wasn’t ever the cool kid. In high school, I never got invited to a party. I probably wouldn’t have gone, but it would have been nice to be invited. And it wasn’t because I was a Christian, because I didn’t get invited to their parties either. I heard about them. I remember people talking about one of our classmates jumping back and forth over the bonfire they had. 

I did have some friends. We got closer through our high school years. When it was just us, we had a pretty good time. Maybe not a hilarious time, but it was fun for me. But, I noticed something too. When some of these friends were around other kids who were cooler than we were, something changed. Specifically, the way I got treated changed. Where I had been a part of the group before, when the cooler kids were around I became an outcast. In other words, my friends were ashamed to acknowledge any kind of friendship with me in the wrong context. 

Don’t worry, I’m not being all “poor me” about it. I actually get it. They weren’t in the “cool” crowd either. They were on the outside too. They were one layer closer to being in than I was, so to acknowledge any kind of friendship with me could have pushed them another layer away from the cool group. I don’t hold it against any of them. That’s the way the world works. I hope I haven’t, but it’s possible I have done the same thing. 

It’s harsh though, isn’t it? I mean, I was never even given a chance to audition for the group. Who knows, I may have been the life of the party that I never got invited to. But we recognize the reality of that. It’s how the world works. The world works in layers of popularity and acceptance. Some people make it all the way in to the inner circle while others seem to perpetually be stuck on the outside wondering what it’s like in there. 

In Luke chapter 9, we see Jesus telling his disciples about his coming execution. “Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.

22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

(Luke 9:21-26)

Yesterday we talked about the pride of life and how humility is an absolute baseline requirement for entrance into God’s kingdom. We will never get in because of our own ability. Today all the rage is followers. How many people are following you on Instagram or Facebook or whatever the heck Tik Tok. You have to have a certain number of followers to be one of the cool kids these days. But in Kingdom of God terms, people following you means absolutely jack squat. You could have every single human on the planet in history following you and be denied entrance. Because entrance to the kingdom requires an entirely new approach. Something new has to come to life. 

This new thing comes to life only when the old thing has died. If the old life doesn’t die, if we don’t deny that old way of living according to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life – there is no room for the life of Christ to take over us. And if the life of Christ can’t take over, neither can his love. 

It comes down to how we treat Jesus. Are we ever ashamed of Jesus. I think many Christians struggle with this in our time. Jesus is no longer the cool kid. There used to be a picture of someone people claimed to be Jesus hanging in the main entrance of my high school when I went there. The freedom from religion foundation made them take it down. Jesus isn’t the cool kid. 
In fact, more and more, Jesus is being pushed to the outer layers of society. He is becoming fringe. Culturally speaking, our society has less and less room for someone who’s primary call is to deny yourself and take up your cross daily. We have less and less room for someone who says that the way we are to love one another is by laying down our lives for one another. 

That’s how we become love, by the way. Jesus said: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

We don’t become love by striving and trying really hard. We become love by unbecoming ourselves. That’s the starting point. The starting line is unbecoming ourselves so the life and love of Christ can come to life in us. If we don’t do that, we don’t have a chance of becoming love. If we don’t do that, we don’t have a chance of showing the world what God is like. 

So, I guess the real question we have to ask ourselves is, are we too ashamed of Jesus to become Him. Are there circles in your life where you talk Him up and circles where you don’t mention Him at all? Are there places where you’re afraid to let anyone know that you even go to church? Are you worried that your boss or your coworker or neighbor might find out? Do you hope you can keep it quiet enough that no one will judge you for it? Are you one way with Jesus with your Jesus friends, but then when Jesus comes with you to another group of friends, do you find yourself belittling Him, His word and His bride? 

I get that it’s not easy. It wouldn’t have been easy for that friend of mine to cross that line with the cool kids to try to bring me into that circle. The farther away from God our culture gets, the higher the price is going to be. 

And that’s the test isn’t it? That’s how we know if we are really his followers right? If there is ever a price that is too high to pay to be one of his followers then we haven’t truly denied ourselves. If there is ever a moment where instead of denying ourselves we deny our association with Jesus, we still have more denial to do. 

That’s why it’s a daily thing. That’s why taking up your cross daily is a big deal. Oh, and what is that cross? 

Well, I can’t conclusively prove this, but what was Jesus’ cross? Jesus told us to love one another like He love us. How did He love us? By laying down His life for us. So then, what is the cross that we are supposed to carry every day? Loving one another in the same sacrificial way Jesus loved us. 

This is how we become love. Can you imagine what even just our little church would look like if we loved one another in this way? Can you imagine the impact this would have on our families, neighborhoods and communities if we loved Jesus in this way and became him. If we were never ashamed to be the love of Jesus to someone, I think the results would be absolutely revolutionary. People everywhere would know who we are by the way we loved each other. 

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