The Scripture lessons for September 4, 2016 were Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Philemon 1-21; and Luke 14:25-35. Pastor Krause entitled his message “Choose Life.”
Pastor Krause, picking up on the Old Testament lesson for the day, began his message sharing how God through Moses provided the Israelites and provides us today a choice along with the consequences we can expect in accord with the choice we make. Joshua, Moses successor, does the same thing in Joshua 24.
Pastor Krause then talked about how before faith we had no choice as before faith was birthed in us by the Holy Spirit we were slaves to sin. This echoes the essence of Martin Luther’s thoughts in his book The Bondage of Will. When the Holy Spirit birthed faith in us we were regenerated (2 Thessalonians 2:13). We were born again as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and as new creations we are no longer slave to sin (Romans 6:6-7 & 11-14). As new creations we can say with Joshua “…as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Pastor Krause then talked about Jesus, the choices Jesus had, and the choices Jesus made. Jesus chose us and all the choices He made He made with us and with our well-being in mind (John 10:14-18; John 15:16; 1 John 4:10). Jesus chose to endure the cross, discounting it shame in order that you and I and all people might be saved and might enjoy eternal life with Him (John 3:16; Hebrews 12:2; 1 John 2:2).
Then Pastor Krause talked about the choices we now have today as Jesus’ new creations. As Jesus’ new creations we now have the ability to choose to follow Jesus and to be His disciples. Jesus also tells us if we are to be His disciples we are to pick up our crosses, and, if we don’t pick up our cross, we cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:27). In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us we need to pick up our daily and follow Him. In Mark 8:34 Jesus tells us this picking up of a cross is for the sake of the Gospel.
This for me raises in my mind at least two questions worthy of discussion. (1) When Jesus speaks of crosses, what is He meaning? (2) What is the relationship between being “saved” and being a “disciple”? Are they the same?
As I understand it when Jesus speaks of crosses we are to pick up and to bear He is NOT talking about the misfortunes and tragedies of life. He is not talking about things like developing cancer or becoming crippled in an accident. Things of this nature are indeed misfortunes and they are tragic, but they are not in a Christian sense crosses.
In a Christian sense crosses are things we intentionally pick up to serve others and to advance the gospel (Mark 8:34). Jesus intentionally went to (CHOSE) the cross to serve us and all people, and, thus to advance the gospel. Picking up a cross generally, if not always, involves sacrifice as we put the needs and well-being of another before our own (1 Corinthians 10:24; Philippians 2:3-8). This is not something we are to do occasionally, when we “feel” like it or when it is convenient. Nor is it something we are do weekly, setting a side one day a week to serve others. Jesus tells us we are to do this “daily,” meaning we are to be doing it constantly – wherever we are, with whomever we are, whenever we are. We are to be doing it in the eternal now. Loving others as Jesus loves, gave and gives of Himself for us (John 13:34-35).
In Philippians 3:10 Paul talks about sharing in Jesus’ suffering. In Colossians 1:24 Paul talks about completing in his flesh what was lacking in Christ affliction. What was lacking in Christ’s affliction had/has nothing to do with the work of justification. Jesus suffering and death fully atoned for sin – once for all (Hebrews 10:10). What was lacking in Christ affliction has everything to do with the advancement of the gospel in order that Jesus’ redemption and love for all humankind might be known and enjoyed by all humankind. We pick up crosses daily not because we are masochists, but in order to advance the gospel and be fisher of men, women and children (Matthew 4:19), ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).
To the second question: In my mind while salvation and discipleship (following Jesus) are interrelated and closely connected, they are not the same thing. Salvation is solely an act of God through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on our behalf and on behalf of all humankind. We experience salvation and discipleship through faith, also an act of God as the Holy Spirit through such means as Word and Sacrament births and grows in us faith in Jesus redemption and transforming presence (Titus 3:4-6). Discipleship, while being nurtured and spurred on by faith, also involves the choices we make as we seek to live out the faith that has been birthed in us (Philippians 2:12-13).
Being Jesus’ disciple (one who not only believes in Jesus, but one who “follows” Jesus)…
- Is more than living a moral life. It is about being fishers of men, women and children (Matthew 4:19).
- We cannot truly “follow” Jesus without being where Jesus is, doing what Jesus does, without being on the mission field in the mission of seeking the lost (Matthew 9:12-13 & 37-38; Luke 19:10; John 17:15-18; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20).
- Involves loving all others as Jesus has loved and loves us (John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 2:3-8).
- InvoIves seeking to “complete in our flesh what was lacking in Christ’s affliction” (Colossians 1:24) by being bearers of Jesus’ love in the lives of all those within our sphere(s) of influence (Galatians 6:2, 9-10; Colossians 4:5).
We love God best, “living lives worthy of our calling” as His disciples by loving our neighbor (anyone and everyone within our spheres of influence) (Luke 10:25-37; Matthew 25:34-46; 1 John 4:19-21).
- What choices are you making? Who is being served in and through these choices?
- Who are the people within your sphere(s) of influence?
- What does it/will it mean to love each of these people as Jesus has loved you and in so doing prove yourself to be Jesus’ disciple?
Chime in with your thoughts and questions in the comment section!