Mark 8:34-35 34
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
How many times does Jesus ask us to follow him in the Gospels? I don’t know the exact number but I do know he mentioned this several times. When we think about those words, what comes to our minds? What do we think it means for us when Jesus asks us to follow him? What does it mean to us in this day and time when we say that we are going to follow Jesus? What are our lives going to look like if we take seriously the words, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”?
We can read and see on the outside what a simple life Jesus lived. But was it really so simple for him or his followers? The simple life Jesus led got him into a lot of trouble with others. And look at the disciples’ lives and what happened to them. Judas hung himself. John died of natural causes. The rest of the disciples were martyred. So, does this mean that we too are to come to this demise if we take up our cross and follow him? If we knew before hand that we were going to suffer because of following Jesus, would we really follow him?
I would venture to say that most of us would not want to suffer the way Jesus and the disciples suffered if we followed him. I also believe that this passage allows us not to go to those extremes when we consider denying ourselves and taking up the cross. We can make those decisions every day of our lives. By denying ourselves, we are putting God first in our thoughts and actions. It does not mean that we are giving up everything we own. It doesn’t mean that we are going to be martyred because of our beliefs.
At the same time, Christianity is not about making life easier. In fact, it might make our life a little more complicated and maybe doing some things differently than the way we have done things in the past. We are called to be true to our Christian ways. Those Christian ways include helping others to find Christ and being in mission for Jesus Christ. Following Jesus means that we have the cross imbedded in our souls. Sacrifice is to be expected. We give up our lives for the sake of others and leading them to Jesus Christ.
In the giving up of our lives for the sake of leading others to Christ, we need to become less self-centered. We can’t have our way all the time. We need to be looking out into the community and the world and see how we can be the hands and feet of Christ. We need to see how we can best be representative of Christ to others. We might not be able to be all things to all people, but we can be some things to some of the people.
There will be opportunities coming our way in which we can deny ourselves and lead others to Jesus Christ. There are mission opportunities coming up during the year that we can help facilitate and be a part of. These missional opportunities will consist of both local and global ministries. Some will require financial support while others will require the giving of ourselves or giving material items. One opportunity before us is the Covenant Partnership that has been talked about. We have an opportunity to partner with three other churches, FUMC Olney, FUMC Coleman, and FUMC Breckenridge. We don’t know yet how that may look like but there is much prayer involved along with meetings and a Bible study. As we filter our way through this opportunity you will be informed along the way. We are being guided by the Spirit. You, the church, will have the opportunity to move forward with the partnership or reject it. If you have questions please ask Rodney Craddick, Steve Heyroth, Cheryl Clutter, Genevieve Yates, Linda McClellen, or Pastor Jimmy. These representatives are taking up the cross and are making a commitment to you and the church to grow the kingdom of God and the local church. Please be in prayer for them, the church and the other churches involved.
We have an opportunity before us to show Christ to this community and to the world. We can lay down our own selfish lives and take up the cross of Jesus. Even though we give up a part of our lives for the sake of the gospel, we also are saving our lives because we are picking up the cross and following Jesus. The cross is a hard thing to bear at times. It is heavy laden. But the cross is made lighter when we allow Jesus into our lives and do what we are called to do in leading others to Christ. Others see Christ in you. Share the cross of Christ with others.
Grace and Peace to All,