By Pastor Erik Iverson
Holy Cross/ Faith Lutheran Churches
Seeley Lake & Condon
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? Luke 9: 23-26.
Lent, culminating in Easter, is a 40-day period held particularly special by many Christians. Throughout the last 2000 years, it has been observed in various ways, but most Christians today hold it to be a non-compulsory observance, usually centered upon abstaining from something.
Without digressing into the number of ways and views of Lenten practices and whether a Christian chooses to participate or not, the main idea of denying oneself is worth noting, irrespective of one's personal views.
The world around us teaches us that anything of value is that which benefits self. Getting is the end goal. The more I have, the better. I am the only one who can limit what I can achieve, if I only believe, etc. Notice how often I comes in to play. Name any vice, any sin, any crime, and sooner or later you will find at its ultimate source Self and the benefit thereof.
Everything that it means to be a Christian is squarely opposite of this. When we as Christians live our daily lives as ...doers of the Word, not hearers only, it means that the more our lives comport and are filled with Christ, the less self is even considered. The ugly fact is that even that is not something we can strive for on our own, nor would we even desire to, were it not for Christ. Left on our own, we, all of us, would soon resort to living for self.
God shows us that quite often He displays His mightiness by manifesting it in what the world sees as just the opposite. When I am weak, then I am strong...is just one of many verses that alludes to this, but the ultimate for you and I is nothing less than the total submission of our lives and our very wills to the One created us. The greatest strength in the world is found here alone.
Christ not only set aside His glory to put on sinful flesh, but also submitted Himself to God, and even to us, His creation, to take our sin death-payment upon Himself in exchange for His life.
Our deeds will not earn us this gift. It is free. But each day, (not just during Lent,) in loving, thankful recognition of His gift, we ask Him to examine our hearts and actions to show us where we have let any things take pre-eminence in our lives. The truest and strongest love is total submission to Him who is love: Christ Jesus.