The basic arc of the story of Jesus’ life in His first body is a depiction of what it would be like for any that would follow him. This is why He said…
If anyone wants to come after me, He must deny Himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save His life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will find it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
When Jesus said this to His first disciples, they were confused. Jesus taught, talked and demonstrated the Kingdom and the disciples still had a hump to get over in their understanding. Even after Peter recognizes Him as the Messiah, he still doesn’t get it. He still thinks following Jesus will lead to fame, status and importance.
What does Jesus say the experience of following Him is like? Carrying a cross and dying. He says this is what brings God’s rule.
Disciples today aren’t any better than the first ones. While knowing theology and principles are not bad things, they don’t bring God’s rule unless they’re accompanied by dying.
We must be careful to know what it means to follow Christ and be careful to make sure those influencing us are people that are dying. It honestly doesn’t matter how much of the Bible they know or how eloquently they speak or how charismatic their personalities are. If they aren’t dying, they aren’t bringing God’s rule.
God’s glory in and through people increases as they walk along the road with a cross on their back. This is how God’s love and upside-down Kingdom are revealed.
Believing in Jesus and following Him are two different things…or are they?
Jesus in his first body was only the beginning. This is why Mark’s gospel opens by saying “The beginning of the good news about Jesus…” (Mark 1:1)
You are a part of His second body, and the second body only works well when it contains cross-carrying people.