The world tells us to “look out for number one.” Popular culture and advertising pushes us to please ourselves today and to grab whatever we can get, ignoring what the peripheral costs may be, whether we or someone else may be adversely affected down the road by our self-indulgence. This is not only the message of the world, but it came into the world through the devil; Satan. In the Garden of Eden he played to the ego and pride of Eve and Adam to get them to disobey the clear command of God. The peripheral costs of that act of self-indulgence turned out to be an immediate disaster to the two, and to everyone else down the road. Sin entered the picture, and with it came suffering and death, three things that had up to that time not existed. Now, because of one selfish act, all of us are slaves to sin and subject to continual suffering and imminent death. That’s some pretty heavy stuff when you stop to really think about it!
We all know how God responded to this situation (at least I hope you do. If not, please come talk to me). Sure, God responded in justice and condemnation. As the holy and righteous Father He had to so as to not violate His character. But ultimately, God responded in mercy, grace and love. He Himself, in the person of His Son, came into the world so that He could take on all of the sin, face the judgment and condemnation for it Himself, and suffer the eternal punishment in our place. This way, and only in this way, could we be made right before God, and reconciled back to Him. The blood of Jesus, shed on the cross has paid our penalty in full, while His glorious resurrection justifies us before God our Father. This precious outpouring, this gift, of love comes to us through faith in Jesus and His completed work on our behalf. There is no other way to be saved from the effects of our sin. Salvation and eternal life is only received by faith through grace of God.
God gave everything for us! The Son of God sacrificed His very life for us and for our salvation. To a self-indulgent world that makes no sense at all; the Creator of the universe giving up His rights, privileges and comforts, His glory, honor and splendor, to be born into this sinful world as a helpless humble
baby. And then to live the life of a homeless rabbi and be brutally murdered by the very people He created and chose to have the most special place in His mission of love. In a humanistic world that doesn’t compute. It’s deemed foolishness and superstition. It’s ridiculed, marginalized and ignored. Today there are some that even wish to criminalize and rid the planet of it. Actually, that has been going on ever since Jesus died and rose again.
In the light of this love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord is calling us to do the same. In the 9th chapter of Luke Jesus is speaking to the crowds. He had recently fed more than 5000 of them with five little loaves and two small fish. He had walked on the water and calmed the fears of His followers and the fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee. He had healed many, raised the dead and driven out demons. He was a “Rock Star”! But now He let’s all of them know what the cost of being a disciple would ultimately be. ‘And He said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”’ Denying myself, that’s hard to do! I want to have things my way. I want to be comfortable, secure, in control. I want to be listened to, obeyed, and taken care of. Not only that, but He says that I need to take up a cross. To all in the crowd that day the cross, the Roman cross, had a clear meaning. It was the place of death…a brutal tool of execution. To take one up meant to die; to give up our life for the sake of the Lord, just like He did for the sake of all of us.
The bottom line is that the life of a Christian is not his or her own. It was bought with a price, a very steep price, the blood and death of the Son of God. We who have been called to be his disciples, and have responded in faith, belong to Him, and are subject to His authority. That means we are to do what He tells us to do, not necessarily what we want; what makes us happy and secure. While that may sound like a pretty raw deal it’s quite the opposite. By dying to the world and living in and with Christ our happiness and security, our comfort, glory and honor, will come in eternity; lasting forever!