Ready for the World

Luke 9:23-25 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

How can you lose your life trying to save it?  What does saving your life even looks like? The first clue is found in the scriptures here where Jesus asked the question.  Is your soul worth earthly gain? So saving our lives involves worldly gain, worldly concerns, conforming to cultural pressures, conforming to the way of the board road and playing the world’s game for our bodily comfort. Ultimately, our attempts to save ourselves are to achieve an identity.  It is not by accident that the Savoir, who came to save us, warns us against trying to save our self by worldly things.  One thing that a God does is save, give meaning, gives purpose, gives joy, gives comfort during struggles and gives an identity.  This world is filled with conflict and relationships are in ruins all because we are trying to save ourselves.  What drives this is the sinful flesh that is at war with the spirit of God, who dwells with our souls.  Our sins work their way out in various expressions and motives.  We will never get rid of the sinful flesh, not until Jesus returns and we receive glorified bodies.  But the work of Jesus Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin for those who by grace have faith in Christ.

This conflict is expressed in James 4:

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

In the process of saving ourselves we use others to reach our self-made salvation and at the same time, the people you are using or using you also.  Sometimes we actually murder each other and other times our anger, ridicule, gossip, slanderous speech, manipulations, and other verbal bashing commit the murdering.  We even try to pray for earthly things to save ourselves but all for the glory of us.  Our pride keeps us from falling to our knees.  Our pride keeps us from bringing our weakness to Jesus and our pride hides it from others as they would use it against us.  Our pride is actually fear and not the strength we desperately think it is. We fear men and what they will do to us if we are found to be weak.  So, we kill them first before that can kill us, just like those in gangs. Oh how we glorify this world of sin, we value the brief time on earth more than the eternity we will see.   Because of the promise of heaven we gladly give God our “hearts” to get our insurance card.  We don’t think God is to concern with the rest of our lives but our love for the world is like adding a little yeast to the dough as this was applied to the Pharisees so does the slight love of the world; it works it’s way through. Such a love of this world makes us enemies with God.  James 4:5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? There is a spirit that God has given us, and he desires to have fellowship with us through the spirit.  God also jealously desires to conform us in the image of Christ.  So how can He do that when we make ourselves enemies? But we fear an earthly death more than judgment from God.

They [Disciples] must not fear men.  Men can do them no harm, for the power of men ceases with the death of the body.  But they must overcome the fear of death with the fear of God.  The danger lies not in the judgment of men, but in the judgment of God, not in the death of the body but in the eternal destruction of body and soul.  Those who are still afraid of men have no fear of God, and those who have fear of God have ceased to be afraid of men.  All preachers of the gospel will do well to recollect this saying daily. The power which men enjoy for a brief space on earth is not without the cognizance and the will of God.

Cost of Discipleship   Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In the book “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, a senior demon explains to a junior demon this tension between God and Man.

“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

So we call Jesus crazy and say he has no idea about what’s it like to live in the world but he does.  We separate from God because we don’t have faith in God.  We praise our sins and tell everyone to follow their hearts and their truths because it promises the things we want to hear but they never deliver.  It can’t deliver the fix because it doesn’t really know the problem and neither do we.   We believe the answer to be found in shallow spirituality with its sweet tart sayings or material things.  We want to believe this because we can control them, so we think.  Because leaving our lives in God’s hand strikes fear in us.  Why, because we are selfish and God isn’t; God loves to give in a sacrificial way, we don’t because we are selfish.  What we fear is denying ourselves.  We fear that we are going to lose something. Neither do we trust a God to let go but we never realize that what He is asking for never belonged to us. What makes matters worst is we don’t trust Jesus when he tells us not worry.  Our faith battles against “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added”.  The world lives off our discontentment, our fleeting happiness and confused identities.  Every day we are given a new shiny button to earn.  This is the life we desire and a good father knows what is best for his son.  The new toy isn’t what the son needs. Growing into a man is the greater purpose as it affects his whole life.  The toys we want we are willing to break away from the father to get.  So we say instant gratification for the flesh is first, heaven can wait.  Yet the father forever loves the son and pursuits him. With every broken promise of the toy the son turns a little bit back to the father.  With every removal of misplaced passion, we turn.  Until we see that the love of the world isn’t worth the presence of the father.

Our quest is for a struggle free life that the world tells us, “This is living”.  Yet, during these struggles we find ourselves longing for peace.  God increases the struggle to change our meaning of peace.  Our meaning reflects that of “being of the world” and in it.  God’s meaning of peace is being in the world but not shaken by its ever changing conditions and fads.  To be this solid requires a strong foundation that doesn’t change at the breeze of boredom.  It is the foundation of the fiery furnace, it’s the foundation of Isaac on the altar, it’s the foundation of Jesus asleep on the boat in the midst of a storm and it’s the foundation that works all things for the good of those who love Him. Ultimately what it leads to is not accepting a trip to heaven if God will not be there. To have the peace of God is to be satisfied with God alone.  Our peace is not shaken or shaped by the desired outcome that pleases us.  Our pleasure is God’s glory; it is “to live is Christ and to die is gain”. This peace counts all things as lost and worthless.  We don’t look to justify ourselves because Jesus has already done so.  We don’t look to increase our status because Jesus has called us to decrease that God may lift us up. We don’t look to be validated by people because we have died to self.  This is what Jesus means by seek ye first the Kingdom of a God.  So our struggle pushes us closer to God and they are designed to grow our faith so we walk by faith in what God has already declared us to be.  God knows us as being conformed in the Son’s image; it is our flesh that fights against our believing it. We think that we need more than what we already have which is everything. We are living for brief moments when we are actually operating in a state of eternity.

In all honesty, when we reflect on how short and fragile life is we are not talking about the sovereignty of God over life and death.  We are not talking about not completing the good works God has called us to do.  We don’t mourn over all the poor we never served.  We are not thinking about all of those whom we now can’t share the gospel with.  We say life is short so enjoy it and live it to the fullest; thus save it. Jesus says life is short so build that relationship with the Heavenly Father that I was crucified for before you have to see me.  Jesus says to do to the work of the Father while it’s still day.  God’s saving grace for us is so great and so far reaching; the love of Christ is a glorious motivator.  To know what was done for us and what we was given, what a joyful thing, what a worship inspiring thing.  Maybe it’s our definition of love that has crippled us.  Our love is about establishing and maintaining the debit of others to us and God’s love is about canceling all past, present and future debits of others to reconcile us to him.  Our love says “what have you done for me lately”, which is like saying “what have you done to save my earthly life? now I will love you.”  Jesus says, “you have done everything possible to pile up more than enough to be thrown into hell but I did everything beyond possibility not to do that.”

 

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