Preparing for Easter: Take up Your Cross and Follow
As we approach Easter, we will begin a new sermon series for our Saturday and Sunday services, specifically looking at the life Jesus calls us to, and how that radical call along with His radical claims led to His crucifixion. Jesus made incredible claims about Himself, and the leaders of His day understood exactly what He was claiming-to be one with God, to be God, to have authority over life and death, to forgive sins. THis is why they accused Him of blasphemy and wanted to kill Him. Who but God could make such claims?
Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh.
He also demanded wholehearted devotion of people. For a people who had seen the horror, the atrocious spectacle of Roman crucifixion, designed to frighten any potential trouble makers for the empire, Jesus' words, 'whoever would come after Me must first deny Himself, take up his cross and follow Me,' were scandalous and shocking.
In our day, the cross is fairly sanitized. People wear cross pendants, necklaces, hang decorative crosses on their walls, and while these are reminders of the cost of our salvation, we are so far removed from those days, we are not shocked by Jesus' words, not as we should be. His words should rattle us and cause us to soberly count the cost of following Him (just as He commanded).
Jesus doesn't want part of our lives. He doesn't want just our corporate worship time or just our service in the work of the church. Yes, we are to gather weekly for worship and all are saved to serve in the local body, but that is just the beginnning. Jesus rightly looks at all of our life, from family to vocation to hobbies and our 'spare time' and says 'It is all mine. Follow Me.'
This is not to say He is a harsh dictator depriving us of joy, rest, fun, and so on. It is to say, when we compartmentalize our lives and mistake the few hours and activities we do in and for the church, our corporate worship and a daily quiet time for 'living the life,' we are mistaken.
Jesus calls us to follow Him daily, and in everything we do: At our work. Follow Him. Stand. Be salt and light. In our community. Shine. Bless. Make disciples. With our hobbies: Be an ambassador. Be available to Him. In those moments we are alone or with family and relaxing: Be thankful, bless. Honor Him.
Every area of life belongs to Him and He wants to make every part of who we are, from our thoughts to our words to our interactions with others, our relationship with time, money and work and friends and family...all of it is His.
That changes everything.
The reality is, if we are honest, there is not always that much a difference between the person who attends church a few times a year and the person who mistakes his or her regular attendance, activity, giving and so on, for what it means to truly follow Christ.
Yes, in following Christ we will love His church and worship together and serve in some way, but in following Christ, we will also know what it means to walk with Him daily, to stand with Him when everyone else blends in and conforms, to worship Him and pray and desire and seek Him when no one is looking.
As we approach Easter, may the Risen Christ awaken all of us to the life He has called us to.
He is Risen! He is Lord!
Grace to You,