Giving Ourselves Away

“I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face.” 
Psalm 69:7

There is nothing so bitter as doing good, only to suffer evil for our efforts.  We expect to suffer consequences when we fail, but when we resist temptation, pursuing what is right, and then are accused and punished for things we did not do . . . such injustice is insufferable.

So, in keeping with the old adage, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” we learn to avoid becoming vulnerable to such injustice, vowing “never again.”  We learn to recognize those who might abuse us and flee from them.  Indeed, we may close our hearts to the needy, knowing they will likely take advantage of us.But that is exactly the opposite of what Jesus did.  Though he deserved nothing less than the Father’s favor and the allegiance of his people, he emptied himself of self-interest, set aside his power, and let himself be misrepresented, unjustly accused, mistreated, laughed at, scorned, beaten, crucified and even mocked while he was dying.  He was not powerless to stop it; he willingly endured it for the sake of his Father, who had chosen to show grace to his enemies. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted:

God lets himself be pushed out of the world and onto the cross;
God is impotent and weak in the world yet specifically and only
so that he is with us and helps us.

And now, because we are the recipients of such blood-bought grace, He calls us to imitate the Son’s self-denial. His call is not about foregoing chocolate or lattes for the forty days of Lent. He calls us to a life of suffering injustice without bitterness, of facing scorn and derision unafraid, even of enduring pain and death without losing hope.  He calls us to a life of giving ourselves away expecting nothing in return, all for the glory of our Savior, who continues to show grace to undeserving people like us.
~Pastor Bert Hitchcock

Going Ahead of Us

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves.  Just as in denying Christ, Peter said, “I do not know the man” so also should each disciple say this to himself or herself.  Self-denial can never be defined as some profusion–be it ever so great– of individual acts of self-torment or asceticism…Self-denial means knowing only Christ, who goes ahead of us and no longer the path that is too difficult for us.  Again, self-denial is saying only: ‘He goes ahead of us, hold fast to Him.’”   – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Why did Peter deny Christ?  This is something he vowed he would never do. “But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you!’” (Mt. 26.35); yet come evening he found himself doing that very thing.

“Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Mt. 26.74 -75).

Peter was so quick to deny Christ because he was operating out of faith in his own ability to stay true to the Lord. He thought he would do what was right when the time came, by his own power, but instead he acted out of self-dependency and self-preservation.  He was unable to deny himself, so he denied Christ instead.  In fear and self-deception, he took his eyes off Christ and let go.

We are to know only Christ who goes ahead of us. We need to deny our selves and look to Christ to find our true identity, the self that He created. As His followers we are to count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus; our life is a new life in Him and this truth allows us to put off our old selves… and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The reality is that our old selves have been crucified with Christ, He has gone ahead of us, we only need to hold fast and follow.
~Leslie Drury

 

A Radical Change

If we look at ourselves or others around us, we will notice that we, both young and old, have a hard time denying ourselves anything. Especially for those who have bought into technology. Any information, music, news, or friends are just a click away to be had whenever we want them. When it’s so very easy to get whatever we want how can we deny ourselves anything?

As followers of Jesus, we focus on his self-denial during this season of Lent and are faced with the necessity of making self-denial a trait in our own lives. We can choose to leave certain things out of our diet or stop specific activities and can be successful for the limited time of Lent. But have you thought of what it would take to deny your ‘self’?

Jesus left his deity to become like us.
He left his place next to the Father.
He forsook who he really was to take our place.
What self-denial, what cost!
And the cost was his life.

Now here’s the challenge, can we really deny our ‘selves’? The urge to get even, our anger, our desire to have everything, our need for control, to look good in others eyes, our pride, and we all know the list could go on.

Today’s verse instructs and encourages us to:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others as better than yourselves.”
Philippians 2:3

When we take up with Jesus our lives as His disciples need to become radically different. Only then can we truly deny ourselves.

“For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
Romans 8:13

~Nancy Matheis

Better Things Ahead

 “Have this mind in among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
Philippians 2: 5-8

When I think of Jesus’ final hours, how he bore the jeers of his persecutors in silence, I’m amazed at his humility. Of all people, surely the brilliant Son of God had a few well-placed and convicting last words he could’ve shared with that crowd. I’ve no doubt he was capable of doing just that, yet his silence in the face of the gross injustice about to be dealt him reveals something more powerful about his character.

I think Jesus’ silence was like a last word to those who would believe: this is how we are to walk in his footsteps. The gospels are filled with promised suffering for those who obey Christ. When we suffer, we are wont to claim a loudspeaker. But when we do, we are rejecting the greater hope that has been offered us. When he suffered, Jesus didn’t attempt to lobby the sympathy of earthly powers; he knew that the comforts of humanity are meaningless baubles compared to the promises of God. The peace he demonstrates in his silent walk to the cross is the ultimate exhortation to us as we ache for our final redemption: “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
~Breanna Randall

Quiet Obedience

And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
Mark 2:14

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on this scripture wrote, “It is probable that Matthew was but a loose extravagant young man, or else, being a Jew, he would never have been a publican.  However Christ called him to follow him. . . With God, through Christ, there is mercy to pardon the greatest sins, and grace to sanctify the greatest sinners.  Matthew, that had been a publican, became an evangelist, the first that put pen to paper, and the fullest in writing the life of Christ. Great sin and scandal before conversion, are no bar to great gifts, graces and advancements after; nay, God may be the more glorified.” (early 18th c.)
 
I read an interview today.  It was about a really bright young man who was living one ugly life (he might not have said it was ugly; there were things he liked about it).  He went to prison because of his ugly life. When he was there, he found a Bible in the trash can.  As he began to read it, he couldn’t square his life with what the Bible said.  He knew it was “ugly life that I like” vs. God.  God won.  Christ called him.  And he rose up and followed him.

I love stories like these, don’t you? They are the stories the stuff of our faith is made of.

It’s good and important to remember that God’s call is personal–you have been called and so have I–even if our stories may be of a quieter kind.  The story of God’s people has always gone thus: He has called us and (thanks be to God!)–we have rose and followed him.

“Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord, that could not be;
this heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me hast cleansed and set me free;
of old thou hast ordained me, that I should live to thee.” 
Josiah Conder, 1836
~Danyale Tamminga
“And if you hand us the heavy cup, the bitter one, of sorrow, filled to the highest brim, then we take it thankfully, without trembling, from your good and loving hand.”  D. Bonhoeffer