We have bought into the lie that someone cannot simultaneously love us yet desire us to change.
Yet, the very first invitation from Jesus to his disciples was, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
This is an invitation for the disciples to come, follow Jesus, and be made something they weren’t. The invitation to Jesus was an invitation to change.
Jesus gave another famous invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
What an incredible promise for those of us with Zoom meeting fatigue! However, Jesus follows with the words, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” (Matthew 11:29). In order to experience the rest Jesus offered, they needed to be yoked to Him and learn from Him. His disciples needed to change.
The Gospels are full of interactions with Pharisees unwilling to part with their traditions and experience true life change. Matthew, Mark, and Luke recorded an interaction between Jesus and a rich young ruler unwilling to part with his riches and experience the treasures of Heaven.
Many want to experience God’s love and Christ’s rest but they don’t want the transformation involved. This is because surrendering to Christ’s transformation is not like upgrading your living room with a new coat of paint.
Following Christ means transforming like a seed. God doesn’t want to simply apply new paint to our life. Rather, He commands us to die! Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). It is only by spiritual death that we can experience change and bear spiritual fruit.
In fact, Jesus Christ is the premiere example of how God’s love requires transformation and transformation requires death. We’ve all likely heard the most popular Bible verse paraphrased, “God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die on the cross.”
But, there is more to the story. God so loved the world that anyone who follows Jesus will die with Him and rise again to walk in the newness of life. To borrow the language of Romans 6:5, believers have been “united with Jesus in a death like his” and shall be “united with him in a resurrection like his.”
When Jesus died, believers died with Him. When He rose again, those who follow Him rose again in union with Him. This changes everything; “we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6).
Kingdom living is upside down to the world. God so loved the world that in order to give us life, we have to die. In order to find our life, we have to lose it first. In order to find eternal joy, we have to deny ourselves temporary worldly pleasures.
Yes, Jesus says, “Come as You are.” But He also says, “Don’t stay there.” Jesus simultaneously loves us yet desires us to change. Come, follow Him, and find your life in His death.
Matt Shown has served in various churches and ministries in the Owensboro area for the last nine years. He has a Master’s of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.