Weekend Word Part VI

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.” Matthew 16:24-27

So…this is one of those…”Holy cow, why did Jesus have to say such things?” verses…I read this and think, there’s no way I can live up to these standards…I mean, I don’t necessarily consider myself to be all that selfish, but then, let’s stop and think about the definition of selfish. Selfish: (adj) devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. Now, I don’t really know all that many people who only care for themselves so then I start to wonder if we (America) aren’t as selfish as everyone always says we are. On the other hand, when I look at the rest of the definition and read the words “concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc.” I start to wonder…maybe I am really selfish. I’m not saying that I don’t care about anyone else but me. I just mean that I am normally absorbed in thinking about my own interests, my own well-being. Many times I am so much consumed with thinking about everything that’s going on with me, that it clouds out what God might be prompting me to do…changes I might need to make, people I might need to help, things I might need to do, steps of faith I might need to take…Perhaps that’s the reason why Jesus says these words about being selfish first. That is to say, that if we (myself included) are mainly concerned with ourselves, then there is no room for God to move in our lives…He’s a big God…He’s not going to play second fiddle to us.

“Take up your cross…” This phrase reminds me of that song we used to sing a lot in church growing up…I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. I’ve always enjoyed this hymn…I don’t know if it’s because of the words or how easy it is to sing or because it has so many verses, but it’s definitely one of my favorites. Anyway, there’s a verse in this song that says “My cross I’ll carry ‘till I see Jesus.” I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by this idea. Now, if I were Rob Bell or somebody like that, I’d probably have some type of historical meaning to this idea of taking up one’s cross, but alas, I do not. I’ll just convey what I think it means…I guess because I’m selfish like that. Welp, I think we all have these crosses in our lives, just like Jesus. Jesus always knew he was going to die…I've always seen is as this big thing between Him and God…like the proverbial “pink elephant” in the room. I can imagine that Jesus most likely mentioned it every time He talked to God…I know I would. “Hey dad, about this whole dying and giving up my life thing…that’s really gonna hurt and be really hard…can’t we rethink this a little…” These are the kinds of bargains I feel like I have with God too…of course mine are absolutely meaningless compared with Jesus giving up His life to save the whole world, but I think the idea is sort of the same. We all have these hang-ups…these things that keep us from really giving in fully to God’s plan. I think one of the points that Jesus is trying to make here is that He knows we have these things, these issues, these “crosses” that we carry around with us…these burdens, if you will, and He wants us to pick them up and bring them to Him. It won’t be easy, it will probably hurt, it will probably be a little humiliating, we’ll definitely need some help with it, but in order to follow Him, in order to be like Jesus, we have to be willing to take up that proverbial cross.

“Follow me…” well that’s definitely easier said than done. I’m still holding out for those burning bush, goatskin in the dew, writing on the wall occurrences…I guess that’s not happening anytime soon, so how do I know I’m following Jesus? I suppose that’s where faith comes in to play. We just have to have faith that God will somehow make His path clear to us so that we can follow…

"If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” This part seems self explanatory, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to do. I kinda get the feeling that maybe Jesus was not only talking to His followers, but to Himself too.

And here comes the real kick in the butt moment…”And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” It is so easy to get caught in the trap of “getting.” (or at least that’s what I’m going to call it) It happens to me all of the time. There are so many things in this world that I want to gain…money, things, power, stature (well maybe not all of those things, but it’s gotta be true for some people…). Then I read this and I get all squirmy inside. I don’t mean to be someone who is trying to gain the whole world, but sometimes I feel like I’m getting pulled into the whirlpool and can’t swim out. That makes me worry…not just for myself (because at least I have moments of clarity where I realize that I’m putting my wants ahead of following God), but it makes me really worry about our world in general. How many people around us are losing their souls (and not just people who are “lost”—people we see in church with us each Sunday)? I know those are harsh words, but they’re the ones Jesus used…so we know they’re true.

And finally, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.” This is one of those things that keeps me up at night from time to time. When I think about being judged according to my deeds, I get this weird flush that rolls right over me, it’s probably some type of a panic attack. I know that I have many things that I do right and I do them for the right reasons, but, I also have so many ways that I fail and fall. I have those thoughts that wouldn’t be really pleasing to anyone, especially the God of all creation. Ugh, I guess this just another reason to remember that although God is just, He’s also loving and forgiving. I think I’ll choose to hang on to that for now, just so I don’t get all freaked out and panicky…What a great note to end on…perhaps I should have planned this one out a little bit better. I guess the best thing is that there’s still hope…there’s still time to follow hard after Jesus…to gather up all of our problems and hang-ups and issues and to seek after Him…to put our worldly desires and struggles in the back seat and to let our actions scream to the heavens how wonderful our God is.

There you go...two weekends in a row...
~Blevins - out!


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