We live in an age of extreme individualism and self-worship. Traditionally, idols were concrete physical representations of “gods” made by our own efforts and in our own images. In the contemporary world, our idols are often not external to ourselves but nothing more than the enthronement of our own ideas and (especially) desires. We give ultimate homage to whatever we think and want and feel.
As Christians influenced by this culturally-encouraged and popularly-celebrated narcissistic idolatry, we can be tempted to serve God, but only on our own terms. If God reveals or asks something of us that does not coincide with our own thoughts, feelings, and expectations, we are tempted to ignore or even reject God’s leading as unreasonable, uncomfortable, unimportant, and therefore (Dare I say it?), ungodly.
At some level, we want to live for God, but only to a certain extent. We want the adventure, joy, and security of living our lives in God, but we’d rather bypass the discomfort, difficulty, and detriment that may well be part of obeying all that Christ commands. We want a crown without a cross, exaltation without humiliation, and resurrection without death. We want God, but only when it’s convenient. He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. Instead, we want Him to take up His cross and follow us.
When God reveals His expectations, He does not invite us to come to Him on our terms. Instead, He enjoins us to plunge into the thrill of His resurrection life through the crushing and humiliating experience of death—death to self and all that we hold dear. That is the great and loving invitation, as well as the unfathomable and unshakeable hope, that through this ministry of dying to self and living wholly for God, we will rise again.