Lent Day 14: Receiving God’s Gift of Love
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
During our forty-day journey of the Lenten season, people often consider what they have to give up as a way to be closer to God. While those disciplines can be helpful, if practiced in the wrong spirit, it can be performance driven in an attempt to earn or win the favor of God. We can never earn God’s love, but we receive it as a gift from Him.
In these verses Jesus is not talking about self-hate or to feel bad about yourself, reviewing every failure in your life, your guilt, or even to reject your worth.
“It all boils down to realizing that our security, well-being and fruitfulness lie in Christ, not in our own performance.”
We can be encouraged and comforted in knowing we cannot do this on our own, nor does the Lord expect us to. We need to come to a generous creator who gives good gifts. He alone has the resources or provides the capacity for a good life. Our denial of self is a reminder that we are “poor in spirit.” We come to Christ without anything in our hands that merits or attempts to earn his favor or salvation. We realize that none of us are self-made people. None of us, no matter how successful we may become, got there on our own. And try as we might, regardless of what the Burger King commercial says, you can’t “have it your way,” to have the life he desires for you to have. Our self-focus has to be directed in another place to really find the life that Christ offers.
Brueggemann encourages us to look in another place. “The alternative to self-focus is to move one’s attention away from self to know that our life is safely and well held by God, who loves us more than we love ourselves, to relish the generosity of God and so to be free of the anxieties and needs and hungers of those who are driven by a mistaken, inadequate sense of self. The self who is denied is the self who is received from God and given back to God in obedience and praise.”
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
“The Christian life is not mechanical; it is personal. And the life God has for us is not about being good, it is about being loved.”
“God at the center of our lives, our true life is found only in you. May we let go of all that is not life, all that is not you, that we live in that freedom granted through the cross. Amen.”
Brueggemann, Walter. A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent. Kentucky: Westminster John Know Press, 2017.