Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Recognition, part 10: lifestyle

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:24-26 NASB)

We've come to a hard part. You may wonder why this series is called "The Recognition" when what Jesus has been discussing is the taking up of your personal cross. This series began with Jesus' question, "Who do people say that I am?" In the verses that follow that question, Jesus revealed more of Himself to the disciples, more about being a follower. It turns out that Jesus is more than a fun guest at a party, more than a miracle worker, more than compelling words. Jesus did not come simply as a sacrifice for our sin and to thus change our eternal destiny. He came to change our present, as well. He came to be our priority, to infuse our entire life with His Spirit. 

In this passage, He begins to talk about losing your life and saving it. The one who wants to save his life, Jesus said, will lose it. The one who loses His life for the sake of Christ will save it. "Whoa!" you make think. Is this a call for some kind of Christian jihad? No. It is not. This is a multi-layered passage and we will cover it in detail over the next few days, but for today, remember that this verse follows the one about taking up your cross and following Jesus. He who left the riches of heaven for us expects the same willingness to leave a life of luxury for a life of service to Him.  

This "life" Jesus speaks of saving is not that of our "life of luxury". He is not saying that, if we follow Him, we will somehow save the lifestyle we have come to enjoy. The median annual household income in the United States in 2013 was $51,939. Compare that to the median annual household income worldwide of  $9,733.  Big difference. The median annual household income in Rwanda is $1,101. In Liberia, however, it is only $781. This difference is incredible. 

A mother and father with children in their home in Liberia will feed and shelter the family for $781 for an entire year. We who are so accustomed to a very comfortable lifestyle, one that would seem luxurious by the standards in much of the world, would do well to consider whether or not we should try so hard to "save" our lifestyle. Perhaps, if we were less committed to our comfortable lifestyle, we could do more to help our brothers and sisters around the world. 

Jesus went on to say, "What is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?" All the riches this world offers will not save us. It will not matter one bit how much money we have in the bank, how many expensive toys we have accumulated, when we reach eternity.  If we have forfeited our soul in the process, it will be disastrous. 

A wealthy widow was once asked how much money her husband left behind. "Every bit of it," she replied. Not one dollar, not one toy will make the journey to eternity. The only way to store treasure in heaven is to invest in the Kingdom of God, to live a lifestyle of generosity. 

Jesus taught that the love of money is the root of great evil, and it is true. That love of money is closely tied to the love of the things money can buy. As we begin the study of losing our lives and saving them, we would do well to consider whether or not our present lifestyle is a deterrent to following Jesus. Does it limit our ability to invest in the Kingdom of God? Will we try so hard to keep our lifestyle that we fail to save our soul? How tragic that would be! Is there anything in your lifestyle that needs to change? Perhaps today would be a good time to invite our Lord to change what He will and make us into the disciples He intended us to be. 

Oh, dear ones, there is great joy in following Jesus, and it is worth any sacrifice we are called to make. Fear not. He is worth it.