How Are You Doing? – Week of March 1, 2021

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Mark 8:34-35

How are you doing?  If you gave up something for Lent, are you still holding strong or have you abandoned your sacrifice?  The tradition of denying something of pleasure for the six weeks leading up to Easter has been a challenge taken on by millions over the generations.  The motivation to sacrifice chocolate, as an example, is supposedly to lead the self-disciplined individual to remember Jesus’ suffering and ultimate sacrifice on the cross.  Six weeks does not sound that long!  A small sacrifice should not be that difficult!  Yet, for many the Lenten denial is surrendered in favor of the easy way out.

It is challenging to give up something you love, to deny yourself what you want.  Sometimes, we even act like our children when we must sacrifice something we value.  However, in our text we see Jesus gather up his followers for a special tutorial on discipleship instructing them to do exactly that.  “… deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

To be sure, denying ourselves- taking up our cross and following Jesus, is vastly different than sacrificing a pleasure for six weeks.  Denying ourselves is understanding that nothing in this life is more important than our faith in Jesus and the salvation of our souls- not money or property or personal connections.  Heaven is not gained with those.

But how are you doing?  Are you taking your faith life seriously or are you, like me, hanging your head in shame over the time you binge watched a TV series but did not find time to have a personal devotion?  Are your shoulders slumping, like mine, over the time you did not feel well enough to attend worship but work was too important to miss?  Do your eyes lower, like mine, over all of the times you prioritized this life instead of your eternal life.

We groan, “God forgive us!”  Then Jesus lifts our sin-weary head and takes our wretched hands and says, “You are forgiven!  Look!  See the cross I took up for you?  That is where I spread my arms to bear each time you denied me instead of this world.  That is where I give you strength to live for me!”

So how are you doing?  Well, on our own, we fail!  Only in Jesus do we have the strength to deny ourselves, bear our cross and follow him.  Draw near to Jesus.  Hear his Word.  Receive his forgiveness.  Then bear your cross with his strength.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for forgiving me when I deny you!  Help me remember your cross as I daily live for you!  Amen!

Question for Reflection: What part of my day denies Jesus?  How can I move forward in Jesus’ forgiveness and strength?

Want to know more?  I’m not perfect; I make mistakes!  So what?  From WhatAboutJesus.com

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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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