Monday, June 6, 2011

June 7, 2011

"Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."   Luke 9:23

People were following Jesus for a lot of reasons. They followed Him hoping to be healed, some followed Him because they had been healed by Him. They followed Him because He had fed them and others followed Him hoping to be fed. Some followed Him because they liked His stories, some followed Him because they had a story. A few followed Him because they were called.

Why do you follow Him?

He calls to commitment.Why do you follow Him?

Commitment is hard - very hard. But it is also very healthy and helpful. And, the very things that make it hard are the things that make it helpful.

I want you to take a look at Jesus' call to commitment in this verse and consider the hard things and see if you can understand why they are also helpful.

There is a cost - "If anyone would come after me he must deny himself......"

Commitment asks you to deny yourself. That means you put His way ahead of your way. He calls you to come after Him and that makes common sense. How could you follow Him and go your own way at the same time? You can't! To be a follower of Christ you must begin by following! And when you follow your own way you cannot at the same time follow His. Chasing Him means surrendering your way to pursue His.

There is a cross - "......and take up his cross...."

The call on Jesus' life led to a cross. This was God's will for Him. Is was not the way Jesus wanted but the cross was why He came. Jesus had to die as the atoning sacrifice for your sins so you can have your sins forgiven.Without His cross, you would not be able to follow Him. Without a cross, you will not be able to follow Him. Discipleship requires a death. Since He has already died, it is now your turn! You must die to your own selfish will so you are free to follow His way! Crosses are hard! They can kill you! No one climbs off a cross once he is nailed there!
You are placed on a cross to die. That is the will of the cross. What needs to die in your life?

There is a consistency - ".....daily and follow me."

It is hard to be consistent at anything. Doing the same thing the same way on a daily basis is hard! That gets tedious in a hurry. And yet, that is what Jesus called these men to do -consistently follow Jesus. In this case that means that everyday you count the cost of following His way and denying your way - EVERY Day! And it means nailing your way and your wants and your will to the cross - putting them to death so you are free to follow Him. Then, the next day, you come back and do it all again! That is consistency.

Counting the cost and paying the cost his hard! But walking in His way rather that yours is helpful - very helpful! And the cross in hard! Very hard - because it calls you to die to your will. But when you consider having His will rather than yours - very helpful! Doing these two hard things consistently (every day) is real hard! But He calls you to following Him daily - counting the cost and dying on the cross! Very hard - but very helpful!

Have you answered the call to commitment?

June 6, 2011

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."  Ephesians 5:26-33

I want to invoke some editorial privilege this morning and wish my lovely wife a Happy Anniversary! We will be embarking on our silver anniversary year today. Like all good marriages, we are each better people for having been together. We have been good for each other.

Barbara has been good for me because of the way she has served me and sacrificed for me. She has given up much to allow me to pursue the calling of God. Sacrifice and service are what commitment looks like. Honestly, women do that better than men. That is why Paul wrote to the husbands in Ephesus urging them to commit to their wives. In this verse, the Apostle Paul reminds us of the key to a good marriage, but He links it with a curious comparison. A man's love for his wife is compared to Christ's love for the Church. Interesting, eh? What is the common denominator here? How can love for a person be compared to love for a community of people?

The thing that makes love work is commitment. Love involves a complete commitment to someone else. That commitment is often expressed in sacrifice. Christ proved His love for the Church by sacrificing His live to redeem it. What did that sacrifice involve? Sacrifice means that I put your needs ahead of mine. Sacrifice means I commit my life to serving your needs. Which is precisely what Christ did on the cross. No wonder commitment has fallen out of fashion with 21st Century culture.

When Paul wrote to the husbands in the Ephesian Church he challenged them to commit to two levels of love. He said love your wife more than you love your parents and to love your wife as you love yourself. Of course, from an emotional perspective the love you have for your parents is different from the love you feel for your spouse. But emotions are not the topic here. Paul is talking about actions because marriage is more about what you do than what you feel. When you commit to marriage you commit to serving the needs of your spouse above the needs of your parents. And you commit to serving the needs of your spouse ahead of your own.

Another way of looking at commitment is this: commitment is eliminating plan B. Plan B comes from your human nature, your default setting, wants to serve your own needs first. Or, human nature wants to bail out on a relationship when commitment demands too much. As long as you have a Plan B you are not committed.

I am blessed to be married to a wonderful woman who long ago took Plan B out of play. So have I. That has allowed us to focus fully on serving one another and together serving God. It has led us to invest in each other rather than indulging ourselves. That is how we have each become better people. Serving Christ has helped us to better serve each other. Sacrificing to serve Him and serve others has bonded us to Him and to each other. Learning to serve Him has helped us learn to serve each other.

But, while the commitment that got us to this point is laudable, the commitments we make today are the ones that matter. Will we continue to serve? Will we continue to sacrifice? Will we continue to eliminate Plan B? I like our chances! But commitment happens one decision at a time.