Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. 5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
Philippians 2:1-5 (MSG)
947 May you acquire the custom of concerning yourself every day about others, and give yourself to the task so much that you forget you even exist!
Many of us live in our own world, A world, that though we are broken, is chock full of stuff that gives us little chance ot be who we are. In reality, it gives us little chance ot find out who we are. And finding meaning in our lives? After so many years, it seems useless, and perhaps, even a waste of time.
I think part of our problem is trying to determine who we are from some theoretical, philosophical or even psychological study. These tools can tell me a lot of things about me, but they don’t tell me who I am. For example, my MBTI personality type is ENFP, and as I read the description, I resonate with it. It describes aspects of my personality, of my traits and behaviors.
However, I am more than that.
Ultimately, we are the children of God, the men, and women that Jesus says He no longer addresses as servants, but as friends, beloved friends. We are, as the church and as individuals, being transformed into the image of Christ, therefore the image of God.
And His nature should begin to be seen in us.
That is what St. Paul is talking about, this idea of being like Christ. Not that we have to or we aren’t saved, our merits gain us nothing in view of salvation. We are like Jesus because of the incredible love and comfort He pours out on us. If you have experienced this love, this fellowship with Christ, then we do begin to lose ourselves in Him, caring for those who He has brought into our lives. As we realize His love for us, that love is passed on to others, even to those the world tells us it is impossible to love. It is what happens
And our life is saved by losing it. By taking up the cross and following Him.
That is what St. Josemaria talks about as well, as we minister to the various broken people, ministering to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the widow and orphan, the brokenhearted, to mourning, the hurting, the lost. We do it because as we are in fellowship with God, there is no other option, it becomes natural. (see article VI of the Augsburg Confession)
This is how we find “ourselves,” this is how we know who we are.
We are His.
Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3843-3845). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Take Up Your Cross:
What Does that Look Like?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ flood your lives, enabling you to “really” love others!
Take up the Cross…but what does that look like?
The words of Jesus we know well, we’ve heard them before, but how often do we think through what they mean?
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.
Turn from our self-centered, self-serving, self-focused needs. That is a real challenge, especially in a culture that jokes about what it feels to be true. You know that saying, “It’s all about me”
That’s tough, and God’s law does convict us when we act like life is “all about me.’
But it’s the second and third actions that are required, that make it more challenging.
Taking up a cross? Which one – the one above the altar – hey no problem. The one Vicar Chai carried in this morning? It’s kind of heavy – but most people can carry it. No, it is something far more than that.
Take up the cross, and follow me, Jesus says!
Are you willing? More importantly, are you able?
In order to answer that question, we have to know what does this mean: “take up your cross, and follow Jesus”.
You have to know what it looks like.
That is what the section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome describes, so let’s look there.
What it looks like
Though the description of taking up your cross and following Jesus flows through the entire twelfth chapter, I want to start with verse 11 this morning, for it is the key
11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 2 Rejoice in our confident hope.
Now, most of the people here are not even remotely lazy, most work hard. We commit to serving the Lord enthusiastically. We are confident in the hope we have; that God will be faithful to His promises. So this bearing the cross thing seems possible, and since we are good people, we can do this!
But those encouraging words are to spur us on to do that which is more challenging….
It goes on,
Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.
15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge.
These actions and attitudes are not easy, they are indeed, what it looks like to take up your cross, and follow Jesus. They sum as well, this idea of love, which started the reading.
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
No hypocrisy allowed, no “but they did, said, thought,” just really love them….
So how do we “really” love
This is difficult, is it not? I mean we are supposed to really love our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, those annoying phone solicitors and even our pastor? Really love them? Not sure we can do that all the time, Are we sure we can bear that cross. Are we sure we want to bear that cross.
But bear it we must, if we follow Christ, if we are with Christ, if we are in Christ.
For that is what bearing our cross is, it is walking in Christ. To give up our lives, if that is what it takes, for that is what love led Him to do.
Peter said it well,
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT)
This doing good, this bearing one’s cross, this setting aside what benefits us, what makes us happy is what happens when we are being transformed by God. Remember – that is where the chapter started,
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
So What happens when we slip and throw a whine party?
These words cause a bit of anxiety. Because I know that we are not always following Christ. I know we struggle to bear our cross, tossing it aside at times.
So what can we do, when we find ourselves justifying why we shouldn’t love this person, or that one? When we want to justify tossing the cross aside, because we don’t want to love them, to really love them? Or we are afraid to, for the pain we might go through.
Jeremiah knew that feeling. In the Old Testament reading we find it, and God’s response to Jeremiah’s whining,
Jer 15:19 To this the LORD replied, “If you return, I will take you back, and you will be my servant again. If instead of talking nonsense you proclaim a worthwhile message, you will be my prophet again. The people will come back to you, and you will not need to go to them.
When we struggle like Jonah loving Nineveh, or Jeremiah loving the rebellious children of Israel, it is simply that, a struggle. It is the same struggle Jesus had when he looked at the cross, and realize the shame that carrying it might bring, and that is where we find our answer, on how to love others.
Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)
The struggle for us is not that we can’t love them, it is that we’ve taken our eyes off what Paul told us to do, to 1”Rejoice in our confident hope.”
This was Peter’s answer as well, that we should always be ready to have an answer for the reason we have hope.
You want to follow Jesus? Take up the cross of walking in His love, keeping your eyes on Him. The cross where He has joined you to Himself, and realize that there, you can see their need for His love, for His mercy, even as you needed it yourself.
This is what it all boils down to, our baptism, our celebration of the Lord’s Supper, our hearing that our sins are forgiven, it is all about God coming to us, uniting us to His cross, bringing us with Him…
Knowing His cross, we cling to that hope, we find the will of God, and a desire to see it come to be, that all would know His love, that all would be ministered to, no matter the sacrifice.
For that is what happens, when we allow God to transform us into people who dwell in is peace, the peace that goes beyond comprehension or explanation. The very peace that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN?
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— 2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Philippians 2:1-4 (MSG)
Some pressing difficulties can be remedied immediately. Others, not so quickly. But they all are solved if we are faithful: if we obey, if we observe what has been laid down. (1)
It may seem to some that my post title is said in jest, using the formula of the various x-anonymous groups.
I would have you know, it is not said in jest, I can be, and often am, as narcisstic as any person on the face of the planet, and while I am not proud of it, I must recognize it. I must confront it, cofness it, and pray to God that he would help me lay down the idol of “self”. And as with recovery programs, it is this very thing, admitting our need of God, that is our beginning step to healing.
You see narcicism is a pretty lonely life, at best, even if it is “safer” than investing ourselves in others. Fulfillment doesn’t come at the being the best we can be, if we are alone when we achienve it.
We weren’t made ot be alone, or to be he center of our own universes. We weren’t made to live on the defensive, paranoid and hardened against hurt.
We were made in the image of Christ. And we were re-created in that very image as well, created (Eph. 2:10) to be His masterpice, specifically set aside for living life as He did… sacrficially, doing good things He has planned.
It’s not easy, leaving behind our narcissism, confessing our sin, asking God to use as He designs…. It requires we see ourselves nailed to the cross, united with Christ’s death and resurrection. It requires that we live in Christ and die to self, to become living sacrifices. Yet this is what Romans is all about, and this great passage from Philippians, and Eph.5:21 and following as it deals with the relationships of husband and wife, parents and children, bosses and employees. It is what 1 JOhn is about, when it talks of us loving our neighbor, and James when it talks about faith and works. It is Christ’s life, and this life we who trust in Him are called and made right and holy to live. This is what, as St Josemaria says, is laid down.
There is a sense of irony here, for if the goal of the narcissist is self-fulfillment, self protection, to succeed at it, the narcissist has to set himself aside… drop the defenses, and invest themselves totally in others.
That is what our faith, our trust, our confidence in God enables us to do, for we find our life, alive in Christ.
Lord have mercy on us…. and help us realize that you separated us in baptism, from our narcissism.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1718-1719). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Who is more faithful to the faith? Wrong question! (justifiedandsinner.com)
- To prepare servant leaders… (justifiedandsinner.com)