Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jesus as self help guru

Luke 9:18-27 NASB

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, "Who do the people say that I am?" They answered and said, "John the Baptist, and others  say  Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again." And He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God." But He warned them and instructed  them  not to tell this to anyone, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day."

And He was saying to  them  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, he is the one who will save it. "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

My thoughts -

We love a good, uplifting, affirming message. We love to feel good and to be encouraged. We love the idea that if we live in God's will that things will work out for us, that we'll have everything we desire. We love the idea that we can, with God's help, live better lives right now.

Live you best life now. Act fast. Operators are standing by. If you pray hard enough for it you will receive. Do good and blessings will be poured out for you.

There are things I wish Jesus didn't say. There are ways I wish the universe didn't work. Jesus here gets Peter to tell him who he is. And then Jesus tells Peter what that means.

Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Christ. We call him the King of Kings. We call him the Ruler of All. We call him Lord. And yet what that meant was that Jesus was getting ready to suffer and die. He who was first became last. He who was the ruler became the servant. Jesus flipped the script on power, giving his up completely, up to and including his very life.

If that weren't enough Jesus follows that up by demanding that his followers do the same. "Take up your cross and follow me" is a brutal statement. It is a violent statement. Take up the instrument of your own violent death; take up you electric chair; take up your lethal injection; take up your firing squad; take up your hangman's noose.

These are not comforting images. This does not square with the idea we have of blessings. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. This is not a comforting thought. Maybe the idea that if you lose your life for Jesus you gain "real" life is but I think we ignore what it really means to lose your life. Everything that you are. All that you self identify is. Your will, your motivations, your hopes, your dreams, your ambitions, they're all gone. Everything that you are is no more. This is losing your life. This is losing your very self.

To die to self is not easy. To die to self is not comfortable. To die to self is something for which there may be no tangible reward in this life, at least not in the way that we think of rewards.

Jesus is no get rich quick schemer. Jesus is no live your best life now guru. Jesus is no health and wealth charlatan. If the question is "How can I be blessed?", "How can I be affirmed?" or "How can I live my best life now?" then Jesus may not be the answer. Jesus is no self help guru.

If the question is "How can I be saved from the wretch that I am?" or "How can I overcome my sin?" or "How can I die to my self so I can truly live in God's will?" then Jesus is the only answer.

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