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Apr 28 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 23, 2017 – Luke 9:23-25

Taking Care of Business

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 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?” Luke 9:23-25

Intro: Behind me is another painting loaned to us by Hyatt Moore

He told me that next week we will have the one painted for Reflexion
– meanwhile he showed me two that were available today
• one was inspired by Van Gogh’s “Good Samaritan”
◦ it was large and vibrant with bright colors
◦ the other was dark and moody
• he told me that I could choose either one
◦ then, in the same breath, he said, “I think this one”

I know it looks like we are moving backwards
– last week we meditated on Easter and this week return to empty cross
• but this has been one of Christianity’s unique traits through history
• to paint the cross, engrave it in stone, wear a cross, write songs about the cross, sign the cross, and so on
– the resurrection sends us back to the cross
• it makes us ask, why was this necessary?
◦ what was so important that Jesus gave his life for it?
◦ and what actually happened there?
• through the study of scripture and hours of reflection,
◦ the apostles found answers that yielded a theology of the cross
◦ and that theology is central to Christian faith

This first part will be brief because you know it well

According to John’s gospel, Jesus’ last words were, It is finished
– finished translates the Greek word teleo, which means not only done or come to end
• but also complete, accomplish, fulfill
◦ a short time before Jesus’ final statement from the cross, we read:

After this, Jesus knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty” (Jn. 19:28)

• accomplish and fulfill are two forms of this same word, teleo
– what did Jesus finish on the cross?
• there are two positions biblical scholars take today
◦ as with most major theological controversies, I drift toward the middle
• short answer: Jesus finished everything necessary for redemption
◦ that includes defeating the powers of sin and evil, and resolving our guilt

Secondly, we return to the cross because of our unfinished business

That brings us back to our passage in Luke
– the cross reaches into our lives in various ways

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the now famous statement, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

• these words were meant to shock
◦ but no more shocking than how Jesus put it–e.g., take up his cross
• we need to get behind the metaphor of the cross
◦ we have a term for when a person’s “self” is dead: vegetative state
◦ Jesus did not mean that, nor did he mean that we carry a literal cross
– in verse 24, “life” translates the Greek word for soul
• soul is the total inner life:

◦ mental intelligence
◦ emotional intelligence
◦ sensate intelligence
◦ visceral intelligence

• this is the person or the self–the soul

So how can losing one’s soul, save it?
– what makes the most sense to me: Jesus is referring to two souls
• first, what I take to be my soul or my perceived self
◦ all my thoughts, joys, heartaches, annoyances, etc.
◦ everything that makes me, “me”
• but my self-perception has been shaped by many influences
◦ heredity, treatment by others, personal failures and my responses to these, including:
◦ perhaps both damage done to my ego and the inflation of my ego
– in other words, the person I am apart from Jesus
• Paul referred to this as the old self (Col. 3:9), the natural self (1 Cor. 2:14; 3:1-3)
◦ this is the form of the false self, untouched by grace
• my sinful, shame-filled self

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “. . . it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. . . . But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life.”

◦ we discover our true self in Jesus Christ
◦ to know God is to discover who I am

What we hear in Jesus’ call then is:

“You must let go of, and be freed from this constructed self so you can take on and become your essential self, defined by God and transformed by his Spirit. Get rid of your contrived self and become your genuine self. Put off the false self and discover your new self.”

– in Ephesians 4, Paul says what we have learned from Christ is,

in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self which in God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ep. 4:22-24)

• and he includes a list of what is jettisoned along with the old self
◦ for example: falsehood, following anger into sin, theft, etc.
• and in in Romans 7:21, he sums it up as all the fruitless behavior of which we are now ashamed

And while I’m on the topic of unfinished business . . .

What we desire and what Jesus offers takes time!
– there are no short-cuts – and if you find one,
• you’re either on wrong path or a long, unnecessary detour
– I chose Luke’s gospel for this reason, because here he records Jesus saying,

he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily

• the old self is stubborn – and afraid
◦ it tells us, “If I lose my attachments, I’ll never be happy”
◦ yet it’s our attachments that keep us miserable
• freedom is ours when we lay aside resentment, anxiety, greed, despair
◦ Jesus explained to Nicodemus,

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jn. 3:6)
And he told the crowds, It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life (Jn. 6:63)

◦ unhappiness hangs all over the deeds of the flesh where as the fruit of the Spirit is itself love, joy and peace (Gal. 5:19-25)

I had a remarkable friend who died in 1992

He was a creative genius, whose inspiration motivated me
– the possibilities he saw in every new day gave me hope
• he kept his eyes trained on the future
◦ he always looking for what was coming next
• on his business card, his job title was “Horizon Monitor”
– my problem–and perhaps this is true for many of us–,
• is that we enjoy looking at horizon, but never move toward it
◦ in fact, our imagination stops just short of the horizon
• we may watch to see if anything appears — if our ship has come in
◦ but we don’t get up and go look beyond the edge
(we’re too afraid we’ll fall over it or cut ourselves on it)
◦ some Christians stall in their progress, because  afraid of what’s next

The false self is one of our potential horizons
– and it keeps us hemmed in, it diminishes our experience of life
• can we get beyond that horizon?
– the true self finds itself energized by Spirit of God
• it is able to keep getting up and going forward

I’ve finally been at this long enough to discover, that whatever losses I sustain in letting go of false self, are more than compensated by vitality infused into my true self by God’s Spirit

Conc: We will always come back to the cross

It is the crossroad of our true self and false self, of life and death
– God has given us this remarkable freedom to choose
• if we’ve made poor choices, it’s not too late to make new choices
◦ to turn our lives a different direction
• but if we think we’ve run out of choices, then our horizon quickly contracts
◦ just because we feel stuck does not mean that we are stuck

The cross for us is unfinished business,
it is a signpost by the side of the road.
The cross points the way forward
and tells us that we have not yet completed the journey
The cross reminds us that there are still choices to be made
and for that reason, there is space for creativity
Since we are made in the image of our Creator,
there is no good reason to think we cannot be creative ourselves

I hope, that standing here at the cross,
we all choose the larger, brighter horizon
and chase it into eternity

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