Summary: The giving away of our lives for others through Christ is where real life is found.
"In Giving Everything We Gain Everything"
The first question in the Bible is found in Genesis, chapter 3.
God asks Adam and Eve, "Where are you?"
... "I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
And so we have not only the first question in the Bible, but we also have the first instance where humankind has allowed self and sin to break the relationship between God and humankind.
Let’s ask ourselves this same question this morning.
Where are we in our relationship with God?
Are we hiding from God completely?
Or are we hiding some part of ourselves...
...some inner desire...
...some inner fantasy...?
Are we holding onto something for ourselves...something that we have not yet given over to God...
...or something that we have given to God...but keep taking back?
Is there anything in our lives that we are so ashamed of...that if God were to come to us in the garden...we would hide?
Where are we...right now?
Where are we on our Christian journeys?
Are we experiencing the "peace which transcends all understanding," or is something troubling our souls?
Are we in relationship with God, or do we feel estranged?
Are we truly happy...and at peace on the inside...
...no matter what is going on outside...
...or are we missing out on the true joy and freedom that Christ Jesus offers us?
This past week I was talking with a colleague and a dear friend of mine who said, "You know, Ken, the more I read Jesus’ Words...the more I dig into what He is really saying...the more I wonder where I am?"
And so, I do hope that we will ask ourselves this same question today.
The year was 1928 and a would-be mechanic was working on his Ford automobile.
He couldn’t get it to run.
About then a new Ford pulled up, and out stepped a well-dressed gentleman in a derby hat with a cane.
He looked at the engine and confidently suggested, "If you’ll adjust this screw here, your car will run."
Well, the would-be mechanic stared at the stranger and thought, "he doesn’t look like a mechanic!"
But then he’d already tried everything he knew to do.
So he adjusted that screw, kicked the starter, and lo and behold, his car sprang to life.
In amazement the man turned to the helpful stranger and said, "Just who are you anyway?"
And the man stuck out his hand and said, "The name’s Ford, my boy. Henry Ford! I made that car! I ought to know what makes it run."
And Jesus Christ is God come into this world to tap us on our shoulders and say, "If it’s not working, listen to me! I made you! I know what makes you run! I know what makes life work!"
Are we listening to Jesus?
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning Jesus tells us: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Denying ourselves means far more than say...giving up chocolate for a month.
"Denying ourselves" literally means to "say no to self." We must say "no" to our natural inclinations to take the easy way, the safe way...
...and we must say "yes" to Christ’s way which may involve suffering; but in doing so we find freedom.
It is making ourselves not an end, but a means, in the kingdom of God...a channel through which God can use us.
It is shutting down our clamoring egos...
...it is getting rid of our preoccupations with "I," "Me," and "Mine," and putting ourselves into Christ’s cause, into Christ’s kingdom, for Christ’s sake!
It is allowing Christ not only to be Savior, but also Lord!
And this is not an easy thing for us to do...especially in our present "Me" generation.
"I want this."
"I deserve that."
"If my natural inclination is to do this thing, then I’m going to do it!"
Of course, this is where we often get into trouble.
When we rely on our own wisdom, on our own desires, instead of God’s wisdom and God’s desires...we often find ourselves empty...
...we often find that life just isn’t working out.
There is a great conflict going on in all of our lives.
Or shall I say in the lives of all those who have been born of God and have God’s Spirit living inside of them...because as Christians we no longer have to sin!
As Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 4, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods."
Before we knew Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we had no choice but to be slaves to sin.
We had no choice, but to think sinful thoughts, to harbor sinful desires, to do the deeds of the Prince of this World...we were slaves to the desires of the flesh...these things were our gods...although they are not gods at all!...and we had no control over them...they controlled us.