Friday, September 3, 2010

Choosing the Right Side (Mark 8:31-38), Part 3 – Choose the Right Mindset (vv34,35)

We choose to follow God’s will and we also need to choose the right attitude. Now maybe you might ask me, “does not the two go together? When we choose the will of God, doesn’t it automatically follow that we will choose the right mind-set?” My answer would likely be “10% yes but 90% no!”

This is because of the sin nature within us. Its like the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Cognitively, we know we have to do the will of God. Yet many times, our weak flesh lets us down. The world’s mindset is that success is measured by how much wealth we have or how convenient & easy life is for us. Do anything different from that and you will be counted as unsuccessful. Tragically, some 21st Century city churches adopt this mindset too. Success is measured by the size and most number of programs offered to members. We end up with people who go church-shopping to see which church offers them the best for themselves.

But Jesus says here (v34), "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself & take up his cross and follow me." What did He mean? What does it mean to "take up a cross?" What does it mean when someone says, "I will take up my cross & follow Jesus?”

First of all, Jesus tells us that "taking up our cross" is something that we do voluntarily. Jesus calls us and challenges us but it is our choice. That is why I say we need to choose the right mindset. Taking up our cross and following Jesus is always a voluntary choice we must make.

Taking up our cross is not an accident that happens to us, or something unavoidable that we must face. For instance, I have a weak heart. I have to eat carefully and take medication and go for checkup regularly. It’s a condition I have to live with for the rest of my life. It’s a burden but it is not a cross I take up for Jesus. I cannot say that this is my cross to bear because I didn’t volunteer for a weak heart. Imagine if I am driving a car along the highway and a sudden storm causes a tree to fall and trash my car. So now I need a new car and the insurance company refuses to pay saying it is an act of God. And for the next four years, I stinge and save to pay the installments. I cannot call the installments my cross to bear because the accident was not my voluntary act and something I chose to do for Jesus.

Cross-bearing is an act of love that we freely choose. It is a price that we pay or a task we undertake out of love. For Jesus it meant going to a cross to die because his love for us compelled him to do so. For us, it means reaching out to people who are unlovable, unlovely and who may never return our love. We keep on loving because that’s what Jesus did.

I am very sure you will have heard of the story of Jim Elliott. In 1955, with other missionaries, he started to reach out to the Auca Indians in the jungles of Ecuador. The Auca Indians at that time were a murderous tribe that killed any outsiders they came into contact with. In reaching out to the Aucas, Elliott and the other missionaries sacrificed their own lives because the Aucas killed them in Feb 1956. Their martyrdom became known worldwide and continues to be an encouragement to many missionaries. After their deaths, there were many conversions to Christianity among the Indian tribes of Ecuador. After Elliot's death, his wife Elisabeth and daughter Valerie also reached out to the Auca Indians and lived among them. Because Elisabeth Elliott was willing to forgive the Aucas for killing her husband, many of the once-murderous Aucas came to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an amazing story of the amazing love of God.

That is what we mean by cross-bearing means. It means having the mindset of taking the love of God to the very ends of the world. It means to reach out and touch the lives of people around us who are hard to love. It means a mindset of self-denial and self-sacrifice. It means paying the price regardless of the hardships we must endure.

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