No Pain, No Gain

Life Notes—March 22, 2012

“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.  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.’”  Mark 8:34-35

It is early in an election year and I am already weary of the rhetoric and promises.  Too often the candidates make me feel like a kid on Santa’s lap: “And what do you want from your government this year, little boy?”  Remembering John F. Kennedy, I do not want to know what my country can do for me; I want to know what is best for my country.  I long for a candidate to give it to me straight.  Tell me what needs to be done and then just do it.  The first presidential election I was engaged in had an independent candidate named John Anderson.  What I remember about him was his promise of hardship—that our nation was in trouble and we would all have to tighten our belts and pull together in order to right the ship.  Needless to say, John Anderson did not get elected President. 

If there were elections for Savior of the world, I doubt Jesus would get elected, either.  What serious candidate would tell me to deny myself and take up my cross?  Lose my life in order to save it—are you kidding me?  What kind of uplifting message is that?  It is certainly no way to get elected.  But, of course, Jesus wasn’t running for office.  And the job of Savior is not an elected position.  And we have God to thank for that. 

Jesus’ words can be difficult and confusing because he often speaks of spiritual realities as if they were familiar, day-to-day realities.  He sought to help us understand the vastness of the greater life around and beyond us, but utilized familiar examples from our limited daily experiences.  We simply cannot grasp the life Jesus calls us to while we hold tightly to our earth-bound existence.  We have to let go.  We are given the free choice to hold onto our earthly life—at least until it ends.  Or, we can reach for the eternal part of our lives and pass through death as if passing through a curtain from one room to another.  When seen only through our earthly eyes, following Jesus may be fraught with pain and denial and hardship.  But when seen in its true spiritual context we take our place as a vital part of a life so much larger and so much more beautiful, and a love so pure and deep that we simply cannot fathom the majesty.  I believe that is the life Jesus calls us to, even while we live on earth.  But we must reach for something larger and unseen.  And we must let go of what is seen and familiar. And we must have faith that when we reach, His hand will be there to pull us through. 

This Sunday is the fifth of Lent.  The sermon is “Living the Gospel,” based on Mark 8:31-35.  Life worship downtown begins at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Jesus may not be electable, but He is still Lord…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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