I must deny myself

January 9, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters,

The good news today — and I need good news especially today — is from Mark 8:34-9:1.

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.”

Isn’t in interesting that Jesus addresses not just his disciples, but he called a crowd to gather around to listen. I am in that crowd; he is talking to me right now. He says to us here over and over, “Whoever,” meaning everyone one of us.

This is serious stuff; this is life itself he’s talking about. Nothing else matters more than following Jesus as he proclaimed in the gospel, the good news. What is that? It seems to me that it can be boiled down to love one another, which necessarily means forgiving one another because I’m going to fail to love others all the time even those I profess to love the most. I’m going to hurt them, disappoint them, and even reject them at times. I think I have finally excepted that that is my fate. I am not perfect; I am not God.

The point is that I must try my best. I must act from a place of love, from God’s spirit within me, with His strength. I must try my best to go to that place and not let my emotions direct my words and actions. That does necessarily mean suffering, taking up my cross. Because I’m not going to have the satisfaction of striking out against someone who has hurt me or try to exercise control over someone else, not use whatever power, influence, and money I may have to satisfy my own desires at the expense of someone else. That means letting go and suffering for me, suffering because I’m giving up what I want. I am willing to follow Jesus. There are times when it seems like every part of me resists doing that. It’s a battle, sometimes fought several times a day.

It would behoove me to remember what Barclay has to say, “What he [Jesus] demanded that they should face, he, too, was ready to face.” He goes on to write, “God gave us life to spend and not to keep. If we live carefully, always thinking first of our own profit, ease, comfort, security, if our sole aim is to make life as long and as trouble-free as possible, if we will make no effort except for ourselves, we are losing life all the time. But if we spend life for others, if we forget health and time and wealth and comfort in our desire to do something for Jesus and for the men for whom Jesus died, we are winning life all the time.”

Wow! But that’s what Jesus is telling me today. I needed the good news today even if it’s hard to hear.



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