Have you ever had a thought come across your mind, and think… “is this heretical?” No? Just me? Cool…cool cool…coooool.
It was a normal Wednesday night, we had just wrapped up a series in our midweek about being All In. How we need to be living first for Christ. One of my students came up to me in the back of our youth room and asked to chat in my office. Jonah is the kid that every youth pastor dreams of. He attends everything, has an infectious joy, engages in the conversation, desires to grow in his relationship with Jesus, he is a student leader. Honestly, he is the kid you hope grows up to take your job from you. But he walked into my office and he was frustrated. He started talking about how he felt like maybe he was missing something. He was asking questions like why do I feel stuck. And told me how he thinks he maybe hit a wall? Something needs to get shaken up, there has to be something more, right?
But wait, this was the kid who “got it?” How could he be asking these kinds of questions?
The internal monologue in my head was saying, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap!” What was I supposed to say to him? Then I realized I think I had a similar experience in my life. It is not a perfect science and I have by no means done major research on this. But I have observed in my time in ministry there is oftentimes this wall that we hit in our faith. We meet Jesus or those who grow up in e church we start to make the faith our own. He begins to transform our lives. We begin to implement this new way of living. Regularly attend church, worship, prayer, reading the Bible, following Jesus’ commands, you know WWJD. Then maybe 5-7 years (at least in my observations) into this new life of following Jesus it was like a wall!
This point can be frustrating for many people., I know it was for me. It can be a moment where many students either lean into God for their relationship or some walk away from faith because they did “all the things” and this feeling of, “did I miss something” causes doubts.
I looked at Jonah and said I don’t know if you hit a wall. I think you maybe hit the Second Cross? He looked at me with a confused look. I wondered if I just spouted off some new false doctrine. That “oh crap” monologue started in my head again. But then the Holy Spirit took over. Many of us when we learn about Jesus we love the idea of the First Cross. Jesus Christ became man, lived a perfect life and died in our place on that cross because he loved us. That is good news! We love the First Cross because all we have to do is accept it. Thank you, Jesus! Then because of that cross, we can live a life of gratitude and obedience to Jesus.
But then we come to Second Cross. What is the Second Cross you’re asking? Put down the pitchforks and torches. I think the Second Cross is the one Jesus is referring to in Matthew 16.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26 NLT
See there is a cost to following Jesus. In our youth groups, I hope we are actively teaching people the Gospel of Jesus. And the Bible is clear that accepting Jesus is a free gift that we cannot earn. But Jesus is making it very clear to us here that we must die to self. We must take up our cross and follow him. There comes a point in all of our lives where we have to ask, are we living for ourselves or are we living for Christ? Galatians 2:20 is my life verse. It depicts how I want to live my life.
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NLT
This verse is my understanding of how we address the coming to the Second Cross. Do we have this understanding that when we say yes to Jesus we are pledging our life? Following Jesus is not an upgrade to our life, like a new update on our iPhone. It is a dismantling of self and saying I am living for something greater than my own life.
So the question I often find myself asking is this.
- Am I teaching students that to follow Christ is to deny ourselves and live for Him!
- Am I living that out in my own life?
Could part of the reason we see so many fall away from the church is that we are not actively preparing our students for the call of the Second Cross? May we never be people who teach all about the benefits of following Jesus while leaving out the cost of following him.
Jonah looked at me across my desk and just simply said, “huh, so my life isn’t about me anymore?” Bingo, so simple, yet so profound. This life we are living now has been ransomed by Jesus. When we truly grasp that…that wall ceases to be something we get stuck at but it becomes a cross that we take up, deny ourselves and follow after Jesus!
Guest post by: Tyler Roland