Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Thought for Tuesday 28 April 2015

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  Matthew 16:24-25 NKJV

Prior to the moment of this statement, Peter had tried to convince Jesus that He need not subject Himself to the elders, chief priests, and scribes in order to be killed.  Surely Peter meant well when he essentially told Jesus, ‘Think of yourself!’  Jesus then likened Peter’s good intentions to the works of Satan in being more mindful of the “things of men” than of the “things of God” (Matthew 16:21-23).

Walking into dangerous situations would not be considered prudent for us.  We are more inclined to take whatever precautions are necessary to protect ourselves, our property, and those we love.  It is the way of men and must not be confused with the Way of the Cross which is the necessarily the disciple’s path.  We are compelled to follow Jesus wherever that path may lead us and regardless of the risks.

There is another component of this passage that is often overlooked.  We’ve traditionally taught – and have been taught – that Jesus is strictly talking about literally dying for the sake of the Gospel (what we know as ‘martyrdom’).  There is that, of course, but there is so much more.  Before we can die for the Gospel, we must first die to self (Colossians 3:5).  That is, we deliberately put away the things of the flesh, the personal desires, the “things of men” so we are able to make room for the “things of God”.  Jesus teaches us, “You cannot serve two masters”.

Having our lives taken from us against our will and before we are prepared is one thing – and not always noble.  Freely surrendering self for the sake of the Gospel is a whole other matter, for it is the willful sacrifices we make each day for those who are hungry or homeless or jobless or lonely by which we “lose our life for Jesus’ sake” (“Whatever you do for them, you do for Me”) and finally find the Life to which we have been called.  It is much more than a simple profession of faith in church one Sunday.  It is the Life deliberately chosen every single day.  It is giving without counting the cost, without worrying about whether there will be enough left over for our desires, our needs.

When we refuse to tithe (saving up for vacation or a new car), refuse to worship with others (there is the beach or the lake), or refuse to study the Scripture with fellow disciples (I’m already saved), we are mindful of the “things of men”; that is, self.  These are our priorities, and they define the life we have chosen.  It is the life we will soon “lose” whether we like it or not.

Giving freely of ourselves, however, and going out of our way to help someone, to offer our tithe even when we are uncertain about our jobs or investments, to worship with others when we would rather be doing something else, and to study the Scripture with fellow disciples are the “things of God” and the real “pursuit of happiness” and contentment.  Jesus assures us of this.  So each day we ask ourselves, “Do I really trust Him?  Do I really believe?”

Do we?


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