Thursday, October 13, 2016

13 October 2016
Luke 9:18-27

Good afternoon, welcome. Who do you say Jesus is? What does it mean to you to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him?

Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” (Vs.18-20, NRSV)
Jesus had been talking with the Father. The Gospel writers never come right out and tell us what Father and Son talk about; sometimes, however, we see a hint. The twelve had just returned from a successful preaching tour, and witnessed the feeding of the five thousand. In spite of all this, some doubt may have remained; if not about Jesus’ true identity at least about the nature of His mission. Jesus may have discussing their lack of understanding. The Father may have said ‘Ask them this’. Peter-the rock-speaks. The Father has revealed something to Him. Peter is us, coming to Jesus. We know something-Jesus is God’s Messiah-but we still are not quite sure exactly what that means.

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Vs.22, NRSV)
Those who should have recognized Him will reject Him. These guys weren’t religious lightweights. They would have had huge portions, if not all, of the Hebrew Scriptures memorized. They had laws upon laws, over 600 of them. The point I am getting to here is this-knowing about God is different from knowing God. Knowing about God without knowing God tends to make one a little legalistic. So how do move from knowing about to knowing?

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? (Vs.23-25, NRSV)
Ok, so what does it mean to deny oneself? Well, one thing it means is to give up the God you know about-who runs the danger of being a larger, more powerful version of you-in favor of the God who is. This is every bit as much an act of Divine revelation now as it was then. Keep in mind, the Father revealed Jesus as Messiah to Peter right where he was; Peter still had lots of growing to do. Same with us. We don’t need to get our theology straight or clean up our sinful habits or follow any prayer formula. God begins with us where we are and continues with us wherever we go. This is a process, a growth process. It is also why discipleship is so important-we need to be doing things that place us before God to allow the transformation-God’s progressive revelation of Himself-to take place. It will require some conscious effort on our part every day. It means choices, new habits. Remember, the mind takes on the order of what it is being applied to. For example, if you spend your morning coffee hour reading political posts on Facebook you will probably walk around angry the rest of the day. Paul puts it this way: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9: NRSV).

One final thought. Our lives are really not our own, they are the gift of God. He owns each and every one of us. That does not mean He is some cosmic dictator or puppet master but it does mean we are here for a purpose, His purpose. We are here for His glory, we are His crowning achievement: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10; NLT). God’s masterpiece, each and every one of us. Don’t ever let anyone tell you any different.  Spend some time today talking to God; see what the conversation reveals to you. Try to see the people God sends your way today as fellow masterpieces, treasures waiting to be revealed.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. JRG

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