Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Serve the Suffering Savior

Choose this day whom you will serve.
(Joshua 24:15)

The conflict I often find myself in is this: whom will I serve – God or myself?

In any circumstance, I am called to make a choice…and I am called to die. The specifics do not matter. The degree of my wanting or needing a particular outcome is not to be a deciding factor. The potential harm, pain or loss I foresee in my choice should not hold the most sway over my heart and mind. “When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die. (Addison Leitch)” And each and every time…that someone HAS to be me. Not because Christ is a harsh taskmaster and enjoys seeing His children suffer the pains of death and denial, but because to choose to die that He might live in me is to become more like Him, who is all goodness and faithfulness and love.

Jesus said, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23) One cannot follow, or be led, if he is intent on doing the leading. One cannot take up a cross, and do so willingly, daily, if he is not confident in the one whom he follows. If our minds are set on being the master of our own destinies, and our thoughts are on what we can or cannot accomplish, we won’t pick up a cross. And we won’t really grasp the magnitude of The Cross of Calvary, nor will we experience the full effect of that cross on our lives. Amy Carmichael said, “I think often we accept the cross in theory, but when it comes to practice, we either don’t recognize it or try to avoid it. [The cross is not illness or tragic loss]…it is something suffered for the sake of the Lord Jesus, some denial of self that would not be if we were not following Him.”

Some denial of self that would not be if we were not following Him.

Those who follow anyone else, including one’s self will not deny themselves. Not truly. They may follow rites and rituals…but they do it for the sake of an experience, a reward, or to please the one they follow. The type of denial Christ speaks of is not to gain a thing…though certainly the walk of obedience has blessings and rewards….it is to become like Christ by entering into the fellowship of His suffering.

“Children, I commend you from the bottom of my heart into the captivity of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; that it may be in you, over you, behind you, and before you, lying heavy on you, and yet received by you with free and full acquiescence to the will of God, whatever it may please Him to do with you.” (Rev. Dr. John Tauler)

Certainly our daily cross is not so heavy as some other strategically placed crosses in our life. The cross I bore yesterday was not nearly as heavy a burden as one I suffered a few weeks ago. There are times when it becomes bigger and heavier, and thus, times when we feel we cannot bear it. But, I believe the Lord uses the less burdensome daily crosses to build our faith for the big ones. If we never take up the daily crosses, though, we will never suffer the big ones. And when they come, we will be crushed under the weight.

For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Luke 23:31)
I believe this saying of Jesus’ as he hauled the symbol of the wrath of God along the road to Golgotha captures this truth. If we fail to take up our cross and make those (seemingly) small denials when things are well, and make them a daily way of life…when things get rough (when the wood is dry and dead looking) we will rage all the more against the death we are called to die and fight for our will to be done rather than Christ’s.

In order to do this though, I believe we need a proper perspective on Calvary and how it translates to us personally and daily. In his devotional book, Morning & Evening, Charles Spurgeon writes:

"Did earth or heaven ever behold a sadder spectacle of woe! In soul and body, our Lord felt himself to be weak as water poured upon the ground. The placing of the cross in its socket had shaken him with great violence, had strained all the ligaments, pained every nerve, and more or less dislocated all his bones. Burdened with his own weight, The Sufferer felt the strain increasing every moment of those six long hours. His sense of faintness and general weakness were overpowering; while to his own consciousness he became nothing but a mass of misery and swooning sickness. … To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue; but in his case, he was wounded, and felt the sword; he drained the cup and tasted every drop. … As we kneel before our now ascended Saviour's throne, let us remember well the way by which he prepared it as a throne of grace for us; let us in spirit drink of his cup, that we may be strengthened for our hour of heaviness whenever it may come."

The Sufferer and The Savior on the Throne. One in the Same.

Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me, today, I choose Christ!

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