Me first?

meI was tired after several days that were full of sadness and conflict; not my own, but problems that people brought to their pastor.  Let me interrupt this thought to tell you that the call of God to serve His flock is a cherished privilege! But, in that moment of fatigue and some disappointment, the thought hit me hard, like a hard swung fist to the side of my head, “So, when do you get to do your thing?”

Caught off guard, I allowed self-pity to chew away at me. “Why do you have to be responsible when so many others are not? Who takes care of you?”  In a few moments I regained my emotional balance and rejected those ugly, selfish, ‘me-centered’ temptations.  Many people would not call those ideas of self-expression ugly or wrong.

“Me first!” is an American as apple pie.  From infancy we are schooled in self-expression, convinced that it is the path to happiness. The evidence of our self-love is not hard to find. For example, agencies that depend on volunteers to carry out their mission – churches, fire companies, Scouts, etc. – are in crisis as more of us no longer see the value of a life of service. Indulgence of every appetite has created a crisis of health based in obesity! Or consider that we are taught that unrestrained sexual expression is just ‘natural’ and ignore the multiple negative consequences for social stability.

The message of the Gospel of Jesus meets a culture of indulgence with a call to follow Him with an obedient heart.  His invitation to real and lasting life is nearly incomprehensible to those who are addicted to Self.  He holds open the door saying, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Mark 8:34-37, NLT)  Can you hear Him?

Saying “yes” to God’s will, when everything in us is screaming for “freedom,” is hard- so hard it feels like dying.  I know the struggle having knelt in prayer where I cried like a frustrated little boy before my Lord. “Jesus, I don’t want to do that. You’re asking too much. It just doesn’t make sense.”  In those moments, I know He becomes my Advocate, praying for my strength, steadying me.   Why? Because He prayed in a way that was more eloquent, but quite similar. The night before the Cross, as He knew the suffering emotional, spiritual, and physical that was ahead, He prayed “My Father, if it is possible, don’t make me suffer by having me drink from this cup.”  He did not get up from that place of tears to do what He wanted.  He surrendered!  “Do what You want, and not what I want.” (Matthew 26:39, CEV) His obedience brought us salvation and “God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11, NLT)

Life is offering us two roads, Christian. We can choose our own way – and find some measure of happiness when we satisfy the demands of Self but it has a big appetite that only grows if we feed it! There will never be enough. We can, by faith and in love, choose the way of the Cross, dying to Self, and embracing the life of Christ. That isn’t always expressed in some earthshaking manner. This way is, despite the Devil’s whispers and objections, the way to lasting joy and the embrace of the Father.

Pray for faith to accept this word from the Word and take it with you through this day.  “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.” (Matthew 7:13-14, The Message)  “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23, The Message)

__________

This Is Amazing Grace

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness,
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings.

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder,
Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings.

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You laid down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh Jesus I sing for all that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order,
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter?
The King of Glory, the King of Glory.

Who rules the nations with truth and justice,
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings.

Jeremy Riddle | Josh Farro | Phil Wickham © 2012 Phil Wickham Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) CCLI License # 810055

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