Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Earn Your Downhill - APPALLINGLY UNAPPEALING

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What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.
- Matthew 16:24-25

I was intrigued. Could I do it? Would I be able to keep up? Was I tough enough to endure the suffering? My first experience peddling a bike to the top of the ski area came after an invitation from a group of hoodlums – I call my friends – from the local pub. I couldn’t say no; they believed I could do it.

If Jesus were a mountain biker, which would He chose: peddle to the top or ride the chairlift? Climbing an entire ski mountain on a bike takes time, it is hard work, it’s painful, it goes against the norm, and it builds character.

So WHY, why do it? I have come to understand that in order to TRULY see, feel, touch, taste, and hear the goodness of God, I must seek to experience Him throughout every peddle stroke of life (Exodus 33:18). Further, I must set aside comfort, security, and pleasures and, with veracity, want to know Christ, the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10) - no matter what the cost. 

To be a TRUE follower of Jesus, we are to do as Jesus and become like Him. This does not happen with a one-time receiving of salvation by Jesus’ death on the cross. Well, it does BUT, for a multitude of reasons, we resist it. Do you see yourself in any of these reasons?

·   I lived as an enemy of God. To become His friend takes time to learn about and trust His character, His heart, and His promises. I don’t have time nor do I want to make time.
·   My truth needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt in God’s truth. My truth feels safe, familiar, and comfortable, I can’t be bothered. I’m resigned to live dissatisfied and discontent.
·   To become like Christ requires me to face the darkness in my mind and heart head on. It will be too painful to confess and turn away from my wrongdoings. I’d rather believe I’m a good person even if I know I’m really not.
·   Reading the Bible or believing Jesus to be the savior to the world goes against the norm. I’m not prepared to be rejected by my friends and family who think a relationship with Jesus is foolishness.
·   I want bitterness, anger, self-hatred, and depression to escape me. But, these attributes have defined me for so long. I wonder who I will be without them.

The process of imitating Christ, like mountain biking, takes time, hard work, persevering pain, going against the norm, and submission to be made in to the likeness of Christ. And, even then, we will only be fully like Him upon our death (John 17:3).   

We often want all the pleasure and blessings we think salvation brings without the cost. Have you ever weighed the cost to be a TRUE disciple? And what would motivate me or you to choose a life of suffering, sacrifice, and servant hood like Christ did? Aren’t we going to heaven because we believe in Jesus?

Why should we peddle to the top instead of simply ride the chairlift?

Jesus said He came to give us life and life abundantly (John 10:10b). He told us to pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew ). We don’t have to wait for heaven to experience a fullness of His goodness right now. Our culture will portray comfort, security, and pleasures to be admired virtues to attain. And yet, look around. As a whole our country is engulfed by addiction, gluttony, and depression. It’s rare to find someone consumed with peace and joy even within the body of Christ. Instead, too often, emptiness and dissatisfaction rule the hearts of men (Mark -22). 

Everything GOOD in life comes from hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, service, and self-discipline. Seriously, evaluate what you value. I observe comfort, security, and pleasure to produce lazy, entitled, selfish people. I’m not just spouting off from judgment. I’m qualified to speak because for 32 years apart from Christ and for many years even as a disciple, I put comfort, security, and pleasures as my primary concern. 

And, even now, I have to push against the tide of our culture every day. In fact, Jesus said to His disciples,

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
- Matthew 16:24-25

I believe you can do it. In fact, I know you can. My first experience “peddling to the top of the ski area” wasn’t really a choice I made. It came as a desperate cry from the pit of my soul for someone to save me and show me the way, the truth, and the life filled with peace and joy (John 14:6).

What should you hope to find on your journey?

·   Compassion/mercy: Lamentations 3:22-23
·   Comfort: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
·   Provision: Psalm 73:26
·   Peace: Philippians 4:7
·   Perspective/Truth: John 8:32
·   Protection: Psalm 91:1
·   Fellowship: Romans 8:17
·   Contentment: 1 Timothy 6:6

The thrilling ride down the hill occurs when we share what we experienced on the ride up the hill with those distant and disengaged from God. His light shines out of us. We become heirs to the Kingdom and ambassadors for Christ.

Honestly, in our pursuit to follow Christ, there is no chairlift …

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