Give Up or Get Going?

The last few weeks’ sermons from Mark 8 and 9 have been pretty intense in their applications.  After all, Jesus was confronting head on the mistaken assumptions his disciples made about the kind of Messiah he was, the kind of kingdom they would experience, and the path they would have to choose–“…deny [your]self, take up [your] cross, and follow me.”  As we considered together last week the ramifications of this call to our own lives, the “disconnect” that exists between the average Christian life and what Jesus expects became both clear and disturbing for many of us.  Afterwards, a number of people, young and old, remarked that it can be discouraging to think deeply about how we fail to deny our own ambitions, die to ourselves, and follow Jesus. 

I took a few moments on Sunday night to follow up on this, and I wanted to repeat it for those who might not have been there, so here goes…

Listening to Jesus’ call and realizing we are not there can lead to one of two responses.  The first is to give up, but frankly that is the path of unbelief.  Shrinking back from following undermines our assurance and may testify to lack of true faith.

The second is the path Paul takes.  Now, in my mind there is no one more qualified to say, “I have denied my own ambitions, died to self, and followed the path of suffering that Jesus walked,” than Paul was.  By the time he writes Philippians, he is is jail for preaching the gospel.  He testifies, in ch. 3, that he has, in fact, followed this path, counting everything he once valued as nothing to gain Christ.  But he goes on to say that he hasn’t mastered this–he doesn’t consider himself “perfect” or complete in this.  Instead, he lets go of the  past, and presses on to better following after God’s call upward and onward.

If Paul could feel that he hadn’t gotten it all right yet, but had to keep pressing on, then I have hope and encouragement that this should be my response.  I cannot wallow in regret, nor should I revel in past victories.  Instead I need to keep pressing on.  The measure of my faithfulness is always taken in the present.  The same is true for all of us.

Let’s make sure not to give up.  Let’s think deeply about where our lives are not being lived on the threefold path described at the end of Mark 8.  And then let’s call upon God’s Spirit to enable us to change–one aspect or area at a time perhaps–so that we prove to be true followers of Jesus.

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Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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