Sunday, September 11, 2011

Towers, Crosses, Thoughts, Hopes

Our pastor challenged us this morning, as he does every Sunday morning, to examine our lives and hearts to see if we are living like the gospel is real. That's all he teaches, and all we need to hear: the gospel, over and over. I forget it every day.

The events of September 11, 2001 were horrific, the wicked product of minds twisted by sin and hate. When Andrew and I were in New York City in July, we went to Ground Zero, and to the church across the street that is much more a memorial to that time in history than the fenced-off corner of construction. Our hearts broke for our country, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, our shared pain and grief.

But we who proclaim the name of Christ cannot live in grief, cannot stop there. We have a hope beyond this world; our hope was never in this world, this country, this present anything. We must live always for what ultimately matters. Yes, that means mourning and loving -- of course! But we do so because of a much greater purpose in life. We live for Christ, not for our own reputations, our own comfort, pleasure, success, or glory. We live for Christ, and so live in disgrace and shame in the world's eyes. We live for Christ, and die to self. At least, we must if we are to follow Him fully.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Mark 8:34-36

Jesus said this to the whole crowd, not just his disciples. Anyone who would follow him must daily take up his cross. Living so completely for Jesus is not just for the Pauls and Peters and Stephens and Martin Luthers of Christianity -- we are all called to such a radical life, all called to live completely for Him every day. In our normalcy, in our daily jobs and shopping and cleaning and bill-paying, we live completely for Him, doing all things not unto ourselves.

Of course we can't do this on our own. Of course we hurt and struggle and fail and sin. Of course. But our hearts yearn for Him instead our ourselves, and that makes all the difference. We live by faith, not by the law. Our hearts yearn for his glory more than our own reputation, more than our country's victory, more than comfort or pleasure or happiness. And one day, the pilgrim days will be over.

Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father's smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee...
"Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken"
words by Henry Francis Lyte

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