Lenten Gospel Reflection for Thursday, February 18th — Luke 9:22-25
Did you know that the entirety of the New Testament was written to believing Christians? It’s true. The first folks to read and hear these stories were already part of the Church. And, at least from this particular passage they would have understood that the life of a Christian was one of personal challenge, commitment and potentially dangerous.
If you’ve read and comprehend the entire New Testament, in context, you should understand that being a Christian is more than simply saying a “sinner’s prayer.” Neither is it merely a one-time event where you accept Him into your life — on faith. NO. It’s committing to do something RADICAL — something completely foreign to what the world thinks is normal. God expects us to become radically transformed. (Read My eBook Authentic Faith)
Back in 1964, when I was all of seven years-old, I would get up on Sunday mornings, walk to a friends house two blocks away, and I would go to Nutwood Street Baptist Church with a school chum and His family. On one of these morning excursions, after sitting in Sunday School listening to the teacher present that Jesus died for me, I tearfully invited Jesus into my life.
That experience, though heart felt, didn’t seem to have much effect on my life. It certainly didn’t seem to impress my parents who were not Church-going folk. As there was no Christian influence at home, there wasn’t much impact in my early life from this church experience.
In retrospect, as a young person, I’m not so sure I would of had a similar response if today’s gospel was the focus rather than the pablum of “Jesus loves the little children...”
Even as a young adult, I might have been all-in, until the part where he talked about denying myself and taking up my cross. They would have lost me there. That's usually where we run into our stumbling blocks on being true disciples of Christ. We want Salvation. We want eternal happiness. But we don't want to have to do anything hard to get there. Few are willing to pay the price.
This concept is entirely foreign in the modern world. It’s even missing from modern, feel-good churches that focus on health, wellness, and prosperity — or “my utmost for his highest” (Oswald Chambers) Prosperity preachers focus on stroking individual pride and an individual pay day rather than the physical and spiritual costs of discipleship.
Nowhere in the Bible are we told to just be a good person and you're in. Nowhere does he say, just say a few magic words and you're in. Nope. We’re always hearing about us having to do things. Things like, having faith. Believing. Being baptized. Confessing Sins, and the big thing — “Doing the Will of the Father.” These are all things we MUST do.
Today we’re being reminded that we must do something RADICAL — take up our cross. What does this mean? It's different and unique for each and every one of us. What my cross to bear is different than my wife's cross to bear. It's different than my co-worker's. For some it's an addiction. For others may be an attachment to sin, or actually being asked to suffer physical persecution and death. To bear it, means to deny ourselves to the sin that cross represents. To deny ourselves is to say "no" to our desires, our temptations, our sins and to say "yes" to Jesus' obedience to Him. That's what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
Is there a price that you’re refusing to pay for an eternity in heaven? Here in the USA we’re under increasing pressure to remain silent in the midst of escalating immorality. Speaking out may cost you a job or career, it may even cost you friends, family and personal reputation. Are you willing to pay the price?
Lord, produce in me a clean heart this Lent. Fill me with a faith that is both fully informed and formed into that “Radical Transformation.” Send me your Holy Spirit I pray to strengthen me in the times of personal trial and temptation. Help me to be more loving and patient with those around me — especially those who challenge my faith. Above all else I pray for the strength to journey through this desert we call life, and reach my eternal reward in Your presence. AMEN
GOSPEL — Luke 9:22-25
Jesus said to his disciples:“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all,“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”