Lenten Devotional

February 25, 2018

All Day

Category: Adult Education

Mark 8:31-38

The Crux of our Christian Faith 

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me, for whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

The Cross is powerful. We know what Jesus accomplished by his crucifixion as a substitutionary lamb for our sins. He irrevocably defeated the powers of darkness. Because of the Cross and the Resurrection, we share in this victory. We like the idea of “victory” and “deliverance” and we show this through worship, especially at Easter.

However, do we see the Cross as active in our daily lives. Is it the source of true freedom and ongoing grace? Do we boldly and willingly take up our cross beyond owning an ornate crucifix and warming the pews (as admirers)? The fullness of the Gospel is deeper than the “I am saved” tag. We are called to be “out of this world” and to follow Jesus. Following is difficult. I personally realized this when I first learned to dance. I struggled as I could not let go and follow. With each step, I had to learn to trust that my dance partner would lead. The joy and freedom of dancing came when I learned to surrender and trust. It also took commitment. When I stopped dancing, and decided this year to restart, I found I had to constantly relearn the whole process of surrender. Each of us has our own dance, but even though we are saved through Christ, without commitment it is difficult to harness the full power of the Gospel in our lives. Here are some suggestions for better awareness:

Commit to obeying God.

Jesus accomplished his mission by focusing on his purpose and also by rebuking his friend, the lovable and brash Peter, “the Rock,” who quickly became a stumbling block as he was expecting a different Messiah. There are times when God calls us to something bigger and more daring that might involve wholehearted obedience and even danger. Obstacles can also come in the form of people who love us and want the best for us.  Be aware that it is not just Satan who tempts. Our “rock-solid” friends can equally be stumbling blocks because although well meaning, they are committed to “carnal” desires such as our protection and safety and we may have to rebuke them to fulfill God’s purpose.

Commit to daily self-denial

We are not necessarily all called to be martyrs like Paul, but we are all called to “self denial.” As Paul preached, our old self was put to death that the new self might come to live in us.  Life begins when we take up the Cross. Self denial is a dreaded word for me and I admit that pleasure, security and comfort sound more attractive and less abhorrent to my pride. Pride and disobeying God were at the root of original sin. Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation of you will be as God and our Adamic natures constantly struggle with this. We can practice disciplines such as fasting, as it makes us aware of our desire for a basic need like food. We also need to be mindful daily about whom we choose as our “dance partner.” Ourselves? Our idols? Our desire for control and legalism? We have to let go all of the above and daily make wise decisions regarding our faith and will. We are not called to self-hatred but submission. This daily renewal sounds like a paradox but by doing so we can let the Gospel work. We can be forgiven and can allow the Holy Spirit to lead the dance. “If you are led by the Holy Spirit you are sons of God.”

Commit to having faith in eternal promises

We know full well the implications of a corporate profit / loss account and balance sheet in our earthly lives. Jesus pragmatically asks the question whether exchanging the world for our soul is “profit.” Let us consider the value of our soul and invest in it. If we fix our eyes on investing in eternity, we can hang on to God’s promises and know that it is better to live by God’s rhythm.  By inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives, we start off with a “credit” in the heavenly kingdom.  We will not be ashamed of the Gospel but see this as priceless.

As we work out our faith with “fear and trembling,” Jesus did not leave us to suffer alone. We can say: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  With Jesus in us, through the help of the Holy Spirit, he guides our steps if we let him. As we continue our journey towards Easter, let us not forget that the story does not end with death on a cross but with the Resurrection. “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”. Despite the threat, there is also a promise of a happy ending because Jesus returns in glory. We must hang on to this promise. Will we be able to stand before him and say, “I belong to you”? I hope the answer is “yes.” This is my Lenten prayer for us as a church.

 

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