Christianity is a call to die. It begins and ends in grace, but it is a journey marked by progressive transformation from one image, a marred image of the old us, into a new image, the image of Jesus. And in this process, God is committed to prying from us everything that doesn’t look like his Son.

We will never regret anything we give up for Jesus. But we will regret everything we hold back. This is a lesson that you can either listen and learn today, or live and learn tomorrow. But learn we will, and learn we must, that there is only one thing, better yet, one Person, who can satisfy the deepest cravings of our hearts. All other ground is sinking sand.

We are created to know, love, and follow Jesus. And until we are consumed by this reality we will not live life to its fullest. To live for anything less leads only to despair. Jesus said it best, as was his style, in the form of a question, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Every authentic follower of Jesus knows this to be true. We thrive when we are abiding in the vine. When we avert our eyes to the concerns and attractions of this world, we begin to wither.

We followers of Jesus can be easily distracted from this costly calling, this wild adventure of sacrifice and delight that offers and even promises fulfillment. As the hymn writer penned, our hearts are prone to wander. But we serve the God of second chances who is slow to anger and quick to forgive. So why is that we have to learn the hard way?

Our rebellious hearts guard their personal autonomy at all costs. We love things that rob our joy. Life can be an experiment in self-defeat sometimes. We must preach the gospel to ourselves daily, take up our cross, as Jesus said, daily, and follow in the footsteps of the Jewish carpenter who defeated sin, Satan, and the grave. With every step we will face new challenges, but our souls will only flourish when drinking from the deep well of knowing the Creator of life.

Christianity is a call to live. But it is only in the way of death, the death of the old us, that we come to know more fully what it means to experience life. Until we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I am crucified with Christ,” we will know his resurrection power. But when we decrease, and He increases, then we will begin to see that abundant life is found, not in living large, but in the humble way of the Messiah. We experience life to the fullest when we follow in the way of the One who gave His all for us, and His sacrifice deserves and requires nothing less than all our all in return.

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allin-1This post is the afterword that I wrote for  Flame’s new book All In. Flame is a Grammy-nominated Christian hip-hop artist, a Boyce College graduate, and more importantly to me, a good friend. You can get a copy of All In at his website here.