Thursday, February 26, 2009
losing and finding
Christ says, "Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree cut down." Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16: 24-26
I heard a great sermon from our youth director at the Ash Wednesday service last night. Dave preached on Matthew 16:13-27, focusing on what it means to follow Jesus, to walk so closely with Him that we are covered in His dust. In this passage from Matthew, Jesus explains that following Him means dying. Relating this back to our lives as suburban Christians in the West, Dave pointed out that we probably won't be asked to literally die for the cause of Christ. However, any time that anything - no matter how good, important, beneficial, or pleasing it may be - comes between us and following Christ, it needs to die. Anything that hinders following Christ, is not of Christ.
Though the sermon was great, I found myself frustrated as I listened. I knew Dave was speaking the truth, but as I thought about parts of my life that need to die, all I could think was "Sure, fine, I hear ya. But I've tried to kill this stuff and it won't die!" It wasn't until the next morning that I noticed the operative word in that sentence, and more generally in that sentiment: tried.
This morning God graciously reminded me that I can't put things to death by my own effort. Even Jesus' death was not an act of effort or power, but rather one of submission. I can't, by sheer willpower and good intentions and trying really hard, kill off the things that need to die in my life. [Even writing this is a bit frustrating because it's like, Really? Haven't we learned this approximately 472 times? Are we still at this point? Ugh.] Trying isn't gonna cut it. What does Jesus say? Lay it down. Lose it. Take your hands off of it and let it go.
I get that, or I'm starting to get it. The part I am still struggling with is what He says next, the hopeful part: (Whoever loses his life for me) will find it. He gives it back. Maybe I'm crazy, but in some ways I think it would be easier without that part. More black and white, cut and dry. Following Jesus to death is nicely concrete and has an air of finality, but following Jesus beyond death to resurrection is wide open and scary. And yes, it is also full of hope, promise, and blessing... but I feel untrustworthy of that privilege sometimes. Just take it, I want to say. Don't bother giving it back, I'm sure I'll just screw it up again.
Then again... He knows that. And He offers anyway.