One show I’ve really come to enjoy is What Not to Wear on TLC.
What Not to Wear is a reality show that gives people fashion makeovers. People get nominated to be on the show because of the strange ways they dress. One episode we saw recently was about a woman who always dressed in a fairy costume—and never left home without her magic wand… The purpose of the show is to teach people how to dress for success. The show aims to completely transform the people, so that they will have the confidence to be who they want to be and realize their life goals.
But there’s a catch—the people must give up all of their clothes. Nothing from before can be saved. Then they must agree to wear what the hosts tell them to wear. And this isn’t easy for anybody who comes on the show. There’s always a reason why these people dressed the way they did. The clothes they wore helped them to cope with a hurt or insecurity. The clothes they wore helped them feel safe. Being on What Not to Wear forces these to “face their giants.”
This show’s not about winning or losing—but some people’s lives are dramatically changed by the experience, and some others aren’t changed at all.
The people who let go of the old embrace the new are the ones whose lives are transformed for the better by the process… These are the people who face their giants—and defeat them. They discover a new self-confidence that they never thought they could have. Their “old self” dies—and a “whole new self” springs to life.
But for those people who refuse to let go and who don’t embrace the changes—life goes on pretty much the same as before. They end up losing out on a whole new way of life—because they refuse to let their “old self” die. They don’t defeat their giants. Their giants defeat them.
Being on What Not to Wear is a lot like becoming a disciple of Jesus.
In baptism, God gives us the gifts of forgiveness, unconditional love, and eternal life. These are gifts of unsurpassed worth—and best of all, we don’t have to do anything to earn them. They’re free…
Yet God is doing more than just giving us gifts… God is transforming us—making us a new creation (cf. 2 Co. 5:17). But in order for the new creation to come alive—the old creation, the old person, must die. That is why answering the call to discipleship is so incredibly difficult. Jesus says “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” To put it bluntly, the call to discipleship is a death sentence. God is putting to death the life that we control. God is putting to death the life we live for ourselves.
It is not in our nature to surrender control of ourselves to God. We want to be in charge. We want all of God’s gifts—but we want to set the terms of how we’re going to live as Christians. We want to worship God our own way. We don’t want our faith to cramp our lifestyle. We want to serve God only in the ways that are most comfortable to us. We want to decide what we’re going to give—and how much. We want to live our life in pursuit of our hopes and our dreams—and we want to God to help us achieve them.
If we are not willing to surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ; if we insist on serving Jesus our own way, we can never his disciples. We won’t truly know Jesus. We’ll just be admirers of Jesus. We won’t be transformed into a new creation. We won’t have new life in Christ. We will lose our life.
But if you want to know Jesus; if you want your life to be saved, then you’ll have to lose your life by taking up your cross and following Jesus. It almost goes without saying that it’s a very dangerous thing to surrender control of your life to God. We have no idea what God may have in store for us. God may take things away from us that are important to us. God may lead us to serve people who make us uncomfortable. God may call us do things we don’t want to do. God could turn our life completely upside-down. We may even have to suffer for Jesus’ sake. Your cross is whatever scares you the most about becoming a disciple. It’s that thing you hope Jesus won’t ask you to do—because you feel you can’t do it. It’s that thing that you are constantly tempted to avoid. Your cross is whatever would take you out of your comfort zone. Your cross is that giant you need to face up to.
Now is the time to stop making excuses and putting off to tomorrow what needs to be done today.
If you want to truly know Jesus for who he is, you have to take up your cross—because he took up his cross for you. Jesus cannot be known apart from his cross—and that is good news…
The very presence of crosses in our lives is enough to drain the life out of us. We fear our crosses because we feel they have the power to destroy us. But if we take up the crosses; if we are bold enough to face those things that scare us the most, Jesus is going to be right there with us to help us carry the load. Jesus is waiting for us at our crosses; waiting to show us who he truly is as he helps us to bear our greatest burdens. No one will carry their crosses by themselves. If you consider all of the crosses in your life and all you can say is “Lord, I can’t bear them,” God has this to say to you: “through you, I can bear them.” It is in these moments of weakness, in these times of helplessness that God makes us a new creation. When we take up our crosses with the help of the Lord, new life is born. God’s saving power is at its greatest. God uses our crosses to give us new life.
Jesus asks a great deal of us today. He calls us to accept a death sentence; to die to everyone and everything that stands in the way of his rule over us. He calls us to face the giants in our lives that scare us away from living the life of a disciple. There is so much we must lose if we are to receive new life. But taking up our cross is not a curse. It’s a promise. It’s a promise that you will make it through the hurts and pains of this life because Jesus will be with you. It’s a promise that that God’s amazing love and grace are going to be made real to you. It’s a promise that God is going to use you to heal this world. Those who lose their lives for Jesus’ sake will be united with Jesus in his resurrection.
If you let go, if you let God be in charge of your life, if you join Christ in carrying your crosses, you will be a whole new creation. If you want to know Jesus; if you want your life to be saved, take up your cross—and you will see just how great and powerful our God truly is.