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Giving Up Your Life April 6, 2014

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Mark 8:31-38

Fifth Sunday in Lent

April 6, 2014

 

Focus: God saves us that we may be part of His kingdom, of doing His will.

Function: That the hearers live their lives in ways that transform the world to be more Christ-like.

Structure: Repetition.

 

Giving Up Your Life

 

Remember Lot’s wife….those are the words that Jesus thought His disciples needed to hear.  Those are the words that He chose to say to make His point.  Remember Lot’s wife.  And you know there must be something important about her since she appeared in both our Old Testament and New Testament readings today.

Sodom and Gomorrah had gone down the wicked road to the point of no return.  There was so much immorality and sinfulness there that no hope remained.  It had gotten so bad that when a couple of angels went in to the city, the men gathered against them in an attempt to rape them.  There was no hope.

Abraham had pleaded for his nephew Lot to be saved from the coming destruction, so those same angels rounded up Lot and his family.  The angels literally had to hold Lot’s hand and drag him out of the city.  “Escape for your life.  Do not look back or stop.”  But we know she did.  We know Lot’s wife stopped and looked back.  And she turned into a pillar of salt.

This wasn’t the same as when Jonah went to Nineveh. He sat up on a hill outside the city with his bowl of popcorn just waiting to watch the show.  She was different.  As they fled the city, running away as fast they could through the fields, they could hear the destruction behind them.  They could feel the ground shaking from being struck with the fire and brimstone.  She didn’t look back to watch like Jonah.  She longed for the life she left behind in Sodom.  She longed for the life she loved.  And she joined them in their fate.  Remember Lot’s wife, said Jesus.

And then, there’s Peter.  Good ol’ Peter, the chief of the disciples.  There he is one moment, making one of the greatest confessions in church history.  And the next moment, Jesus is calling him Satan.  Oh, Peter, what happened?

Just before this text in Mark, Jesus and the disciples head towards Caesarea Philippi.  And it’s there that Jesus asks them the question, “who do people say that I am?”  After noting that others said John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets, Jesus asked them again, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Peter makes the marvelous confession: “You are the Christ.”

Then Mark begins our gospel reading with the words, “And He began to teach them…”  No time has passed.  Same conversation.  Jesus begins to teach them what is about to happen to Him.  He’s predicting His death.  He’s telling them what it’ll be like.

But Peter, just moments later, can’t take it.  He can’t accept it.  “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.”  Peter, the same one who just acknowledged this Jesus is the Christ, that is the Messiah, the One who would save God’s people, this same Peter is now rebuking the Christ and telling Him He’s wrong.

Oh, Peter, what happened?  What makes him go from such a great confession one minute, to being compared to Satan the next?  Jesus answers this for us.  “Get behind Me, Satan!  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Peter had become comfortable with life just the way it was.  It was a tremendous blessing, no doubt, to walk with Christ, to see His miracles and to cherish every moment of it.

But at this point, Peter becomes just like the five thousand who wanted to make Jesus a bread king.  He becomes just like Lot’s wife, not looking to and delighting in the salvation of God, but rather in the world of men.  He wanted life to be the way he wanted it to be, not the way God wanted it to be.

God has richly blessed us.  We are baptized, which means we are His children, we are loved.  We believe in Christ as our Savior which means we are indeed saved.  So what’s the problem?  Remember Lot’s wife.  Remember Peter.  Because too often, we’re just like them.  Too often, we love life just the way it is.

For the majority of us, this is the old American dream.  What used to talk about a house with white picket fence, chasing the American dream now amounts to making as much as we can and accumulating as much stuff as we can.  The house we have isn’t big enough, even though a family in Africa sleeps ten in a twenty by twenty shack.  We have a cabin by the lake, with a boat, jet skis, and snowmobiles.  A lot of big toys to enjoy.  And we wonder why our kids are always asking for more toys….

We love being busy.  We might say we don’t, but if that were true, we wouldn’t be busy.  We enjoy having thirty things on our daily to-do list.  We love having our children involved in every possible sport, hobby, and band that we possibly can.  Maybe we’re trying to relive our childhood through them.  But we must love it, because we just keep doing it.

We love our life so much the way it is, that we don’t want to risk losing it.  We’re often afraid to speak of Christ to someone because it threatens our lifestyle.  Telling someone they’re a sinner in need of a Savior might cost us a friendship.  Speaking of God’s love at work could cost us our job and thus our toys.  We’re comfortable just where we are.

A day is coming.  The kingdom of God is coming.  And when Christ returns from heaven to deliver us from our present Sodom and Gomorrah, remember Lot’s wife.  Don’t look back.  “On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away.”  Don’t look back to the life you have now.  Be saved, join with Christ, and leave the world behind.

But I tell you now, today, right here in your midst: don’t wait until the last moment!  That moment can come in two ways.  We know one of them all too well: death.  There’s no doubt, our community is grieving right now.  Death strikes suddenly and unexpectedly.  George Reinhart, Pearl Lovstad, Peg Sanderson, and Bob Oehlke.  And that’s just the last month.  There’s no way to know when death will strike.  The other way comes when the trumpet sounds and the Messiah returns for His people.

Don’t wait until the trumpet sounds and you see Christ appearing before you.  Don’t wait until that final day to put the things of God before the things of men.  Because Christ tells us it will come in a flash.  Like the flood upon the men of Noah’s day.  Like the brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah.  You’ll be living your life, living normal, whatever that is, and then it’ll happen.  Out of nowhere, Christ will come back.  Don’t wait until the last moment.  Give up your life now!

In a flash, in the blink of an eye, at a moment we don’t expect, Christ will return.  You may not look back, but will your neighbor?  Giving up your life means putting the things of God first.  Not the things of men.  It means being an agent of His kingdom.  It means putting others first.

What does that look like?  I won’t go crazy on you and say that to be a good Christian means to take a vow of poverty.  That’s not what Scripture teaches.  There is an element of enjoyment in life.  There is a level at which God does want you to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  But it’s not the American dream level.  Instead, use some of your money to help your neighbor.  Use it to share the good news of Jesus.  Use it to share His love.

It means not being busy all the time.  If you’re constantly running, you never have time to stop and tell His story.  Rearrange your schedule.  Prioritize.  Learn to say no.  And cut out things that don’t matter.  Find time to be with people, to build relationships that will help you tell God’s story.

And don’t be afraid.  Don’t look back.  Many of you have mastered, or are at least starting to master, the art of talking about God in the workplace.  Many jobs censor it.  They don’t want Him there.  But there are loopholes.  Typically, if someone else brings it up first, you are free to share the good news with them.  Or if someone’s struggling, you can let them know you’ll be praying for them.  There are ways.  You just have to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

When you put the kingdom of God first rather than yourself, you start to see with His eyes.  You start to see the needs around you, the needs of your neighbor.  And you begin to realize that what Jesus says is true.

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?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

 

Because it is just like Christ told His disciples.  Jesus did suffer many things.  He was rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes.  And they did kill Him.  But, on the third day, He rose again.  Just like He said would.

George, Pearl, Peg and Bob didn’t look back.  And right now, they’re looking face to face at their beloved Savior.  What a tremendous gift that is!  So, too, we don’t look back.  We live as Christ calls us to live, not for ourselves, but for one another.  We are called to live in the world but not of the world.  We are called not to live chasing the American dream, but instead, we are called to transform it.

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