Who Am I?
(Proper 19B, Mark 8.27-38, James 2.1-18)
September 17, 2006
Like Peter, I am also prone to define Jesus with terms and ideas that are familiar to me. In my mind, I see him as the perfect person. As the shepherd who never loses a sheep. As the always patient teacher. As the one who kneels down to receive the little children. Or the one who looks out for those that are the forgotten ones of society.
And I am sure that Jesus would listen to all of my wonderful words about his messiah-ship and shake his head and say to me, “Get behind me, Satan!”
“Those are nice thoughts and all, but the fact is that there is a cost to discipleship. And that cost may be your life.”
Jesus tells the disciples and tells us – that we are trying too hard to work things out on our own terms. Jesus says very clearly to his disciples – deny yourselves; deny yourselves, take up your cross and get behind me. Follow me.
Deny yourselves. In other words, sacrifice some priorities, give up some worldly values, some creature comforts, so that you might better serve your Lord and others around you.
Self-denial and sacrifice – carrying a cross?
Those are not fun to think about are they? Just like Peter, my humanity often gets in the way of my discipleship when it comes to sacrifice. But there is no denying what Jesus is saying to us this morning.
That is that a life in Christ is not necessarily an easy life.
Jesus tells us this morning that our purpose is to follow him. And to put away all of the things that keep us from him. To deny ourselves and follow him.
Carrying the cross of Christ is means being committed to him and being clear about where we stand. Christ chose to bear the cross of death rather than compromise or give into the fear of pain or death.
For us, it also means no compromise and no fear. Our faith – our commitment to Christ - sets us free to be different – to say NO to the temptations of the world. Free to change our lives to look more like him. And if others do not see Christ in us – if our lives do not appear any different than those who don’t believe – then we are not carrying the cross very well, or very high, are we?
If all we do is church on Sunday, then our cross is dragging in the dirt behind us. Carrying the cross means holding it high enough for others to see that we mean what we say we believe. Jesus says,
“Those who are ashamed of me and of my words . . . . . of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed.”
Lives dedicated to the purpose of serving Christ. Thinking about that reminds me of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Pastor Rick Warren. I looked at his website yesterday to see how he would describe this life devoted to serving God that Jesus is talking about.
Actually, his church is so big, that there are multiple websites, but on one of them, I found an invitation to make a personal statement to commit my life to God’s purpose for me. And that statement of commitment included the following:
Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most, and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.
Let’s think about those tests of a Christ committed life. Do you value,
Worship over wealth?
We over me?
Service over status?
People over possessions and personal pleasure?
And do you strive every day to keep the main thing, the main thing in your life? I think I might keep that list by my bed and ask myself each evening how I did.
In his book, Warren also says this about a purpose driven life:
“We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. If you can demand service from others you’ve arrived. In our self serving culture with its ‘me first’ mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.”
We over me.
Service over status.
The life of the cross.