5th Sunday after Pentecost
Take Up the Cross
Text: Luke 9:18-24
Who is Jesus? You could make the argument that’s the most important question of all time. This last week I saw a video of random people being interviewed on the streets of Richmond, VA. The people were asked a number of questions including that all-important one—“Who is Jesus?” The answers were all over the place. “Jesus was a great teacher who lived a long time ago.” “Jesus is a wonderful example of how to live that people can follow.” One college-aged woman said, “I believe that Jesus was a real person who lived and taught and claimed to be the Son of God. But I don’t believe that part because I’m an atheist and I don’t believe there is a god.”
If you polled other people I’m sure you would find other interesting answers, like, “Jesus is the founder of Christianity.” “Jesus was a prophet like many of the other religions have.” “Jesus was powerful figure that was looking to overthrow the upperclass regime of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” “Jesus is the ultimate example of love.”
This is not a new phenomenon. Even when Jesus was walking this earth the same thing was happening. All kinds of people had all kinds of opinions about Jesus. Listen to the beginning of the Gospel today: “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’” Read the rest of this entry
Text: Mark 8:31-38
It’s heavy, isn’t it? The cross of Christ. It’s heavy. Real heavy.
Jesus tells us in the gospel this week: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. But of course we want to follow Christ! We’re Christians after all! We’ll follow Christ anywhere! Through thick and thin. Yep, that’s us. Christians. We’ll sport “Jesus fish” jewelry and bumper stickers. We’ll even go to church most Sundays. We follow Christ!
Then the splinters from the cross we bear begin to dig into our flesh. Then the enormous weight of the cross bears down on us. Then we suddenly become tired and exhausted. Then we realize exactly what it means to carry the cross of Christ as we follow him.
We must deny this world–the things of the world, the possessions, the money, the fame, the glory. This is a part of the more difficult task–denying ourselves.
If we are to follow Christ that means we cannot and will not make pursuing our careers a priority. Money is of no concern to us. Our family will come second and not even close to first. Denying ourselves but worshiping our children doesn’t count either. We can’t indulge in the little gratifying and pleasurable pet sins that we have.
No. Not at all. Following Christ means denial of sinful world and sinful self.
Wow! Heavy! Overbearing! Crushing, even, is the weight of the cross we bear! It’s not at all easy to follow Christ!
Thankfully, the one we follow carried a cross himself. Thankfully, the one we follow was nailed to a cross himself. And while hanging from that cross he shed his perfect blood to wash every sin away. Every sin. Every self-indulgence. Every shameful deed. Every thoughtless word. Every bit of vain worship. Every non-denial of sinful world or sinful self. All sins are forgiven.
The real burden has been lifted. The real weight is gone.
What a joy now to take up our cross–to deny this world and deny ourselves–to follow the one who gave up his life for us!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is not easy to follow you. The way is difficult. The burdens are difficult. The cross we bear for you is heavy. Yet through your life and death on a cross you removed our burden of sin and guilt. You have set me free. Fill me with such joy in salvation that I am daily renewed and strengthened to follow you with all my heart until I reach the glories of my heavenly home. In your saving name I pray. Amen.
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Count the Cost of Following Christ
1. It costs nothing!
2. It costs everything!
Text: Luke 14:25-33
“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” You might live in the biggest house this side of the Mississippi. You might be so rich that you use $20 bills as Kleenex. You might have a cushy job that has lots of benefits and that gives you a great reputation. You might have a big, happy, and healthy family that gets along very nicely. But what good would any of that do if you still ended up in hell? A familiar bumper sticker says it this way, “He who dies with the most toys . . . still dies.” Jesus put it more concretely: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
His point is clear. Nothing in this life can be taken with us after we die. Thus, nothing in this life really has any value. And since nothing in this life really has true value, then that means there is only one question in life that matters: What is my relationship with God like? If we cannot take anything of this life with us when we die, our greatest concern ought to be our status with God and whether or not we will be in heaven.
So what does it take? What does it take to be in a close relationship with Jesus? What does it cost to be in a close relationship with Jesus? Today, Jesus tells us himself. Listen carefully to his words in Luke 14 and
Count the Cost of Following Christ Read the rest of this entry