Sermon for 8/31/14 Matthew 16:21-28

I am fiercely independent. If you haven’t figured that out about me by now well then, my big secret is out. I like to try and do as much by myself as possible and asking for help is uncomfortable for me. For some reason, I think that asking for help means that I am weak and I hate this idea. It’s not usually until I am close to drowning that I realize I’ve taken on too much, my boat is sinking, that I usually reach out and ask for help. I wait until it is almost too late. And I don’t know why I do this. It’s not like I gain some kind of reward for this type of attitude. In fact, the only thing that usually happens when I try to take on too much without asking for help is that I get irritable, snarky, and pretty much all around unpleasant to be around. Why would I want to expose anyone to this? I could save myself the headache by asking for help from the beginning. Now, I am getting better in knowing when and how to ask for help. But, I sometimes find myself slipping quite easily into my old habits. Now, I am sure that none of you do this, right?

I think what it comes from is the hope, the desire, the longing, to appear in control. Everything in our lives are built around the principle that we desire to put off the perception that not only are we the ones in control, but we are in control of a fabulous life! After all, the commercials, print advertisements, even radio advertisements would have us think that if we are not amazing, fabulous, and in control then certainly our lives must be horrible and lacking and wouldn’t a new car fix all of those problems?? Many of you know that I love social media (things like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like). I find it to be a great ministry tool. However, these outlets allow us to expose what we only choose to expose. It is very easy to live a perfect life when you only expose half truths.

What I mean by that is that we don’t always tell people the dirty stuff in our lives. A few weeks ago, I talked about how we automatically answer “how are you?” with “fine” without even thinking and without admitting that “fine” may be pretty far from the truth. On the internet, it is easy to appear to be something you are not. Here is an example from someone who is my friend on Facebook. She writes “dinner stewing in the crockpot, the children are playing quietly together, the laundry is finished, hubby is napping, and I’m just about ready to settle down to another amazing chapter of my Bible! I love my perfect little life.” And I want to say “oh just stop it! We all know the truth!” And I am sure I am just as guilty of it myself. It is all an attempt to remain in control, remain in charge, and remain independent. I know this probably won’t surprise a lot of you, but this is all pretty much opposite of what Jesus asks of us.

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” I hear this and I want to respond “but Jesus, if I deny myself that means I am not the one in charge!” And it’s as if I can hear Jesus laughing and responding at the same time “exactly!” I hear this and I want to say to Jesus “but Jesus, if I deny myself, that means that I will be risking people finding out that I have scars, that I have issues, that I have troubles, that I am, in fact, not perfect.” And again, it’s as if i can hear Jesus laughing and responding at the same time “exactly!” Being a follower of Christ, being a disciple, as all of us are called to do, is actually counter-cultural to everything we know. Being a follower of Jesus means that we need to get into the very difficult habit of realizing that we are not the ones in charge.

I share a lot of my personal experiences with you all for a few reasons: 1) I believe in being as open and honest as possible with you. Yes, I am a Pastor, but that doesn’t mean I am perfect. And 2) I want you to learn from my mistakes. Here’s the thing, there was a time in my life where I pretty much let God know that I was going to make a go of things by myself. I didn’t outright say “there is no God” but my faith life lacked in a major way. I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t going to church, and my actions were very far from someone who might be labeled as a “disciple.” I really thought I knew better for my life than God did. So, off I went. And while I will spare you the nitty-gritty details, I’ll just say this: it didn’t go well. I was in college at the time. My grades were horrible; my behavior was destructive to my physical, emotional, and mental well being; and my attitude was one of party now, serious stuff later. It was terrible. Things were going so well for me (sarcastic) when I was the one in charge of my life.

Now, I pray that you haven’t had an experience like this, but if you have, you know how humbling it can be. Friends, there is only one Lord, and we are not him. There is a reason we come back to this place week after week. There is a reason we sit, Bibles open, reading and praying as often as we do. There is a reason that we come to the table hungry and to the font longing to be cleaned. The opportunity to encounter the risen Lord, the opportunity to encounter God in all of God’s glory, the opportunity to be infiltrated with the Holy Spirit is just too tempting an offer to miss. I have asked you this before, but I ask you again, when we pray “thy will be done” do we mean it?

These words are dangerous but they are the first step in starting to deny yourself. They are the first step in reminding ourselves that we are disciples of the one who loves us so much that he would be nailed to a cross so that we never have to feel the pain and suffering of hell. “Thy will be done” sounds good when we say it, but when we put it into action, it can be difficult if not impossible. When you deposit your paycheck, do you do so saying “thy will be done?” When you sit with a loved one who is sick or dying, do you do so believing “thy will be done?” When you plant in the spring time, do you put your seeds in the planter while saying “thy will be done?” It’s not as easy when we try to put it into action.

My brothers and sisters, being people of God means that we are people of God 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It means we are people of God in times of joy and in times of sorrow. It means we are people of God in times of plenty and in times of want. It means we are people of God when we are well and when we’re not well. Christ doesn’t ask us to deny ourselves as some sort of form of punishment. Christ asks us to deny ourselves because when we start to weed out all the junk and noise in our lives, it allows us to draw closer to the one thing that can actually give us life.

I want to give you a task this week; homework if you will. I want you to choose an everyday activity that you do but before you do it, I want you to just take a brief moment, close your eyes, and say to yourself or out loud, “thy will be done.” And I want you to see if you perform that task any differently. If you’re really up for a challenge, call me, text me, or email me and let me know how you incorporated this into your everyday lives this week. Letting Christ be in control of your life is not a sign of weakness; in fact, it is the ultimate sign of strength.

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