Gaining and Losing

My grandson is fascinated with what my life was like when I was growing up. He thinks about this a lot, and he has a million questions about my childhood. He wants to know things like what my favorite Marvel movie was when I was a child, or did we have cars. (Geeze kid, I’m not THAT old!!) Recently he asked me, “Nana, what do you miss the most about being a kid?” I quickly responded, “My metabolism.” Gone are the days when I could eat anything I wanted and not carry it around with me for the rest of my life!

Who among us has not gained and lost weight over the years? Did you ever wonder what that the total poundage in each category would be? Speaking for myself, the numbers fluctuate daily. And as I’ve aged, I have had to accept that the ideal weight of my youth is not a realistic or attainable goal anymore. I have had to accept a new plateau. (Somehow that makes it sound better, right? “Plateau.” If you throw a little French accent on it, it almost sounds delicious.) In our younger years, it seems as though a few weeks of self-denial is all that it would take to get things back on track. Not so in the latter years. It’s the battle of the bulge, and the bulge is winning.

Jesus had an interesting conundrum to present to his disciples. It was also a matter of gain verses loss. But in this case, a few instances of self-denial would not be enough to turn things around. He was asking them for a life of a total abandonment of self:

Matthew 10 (Common English Bible)

39 Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.

Matthew 16 (Common English Bible)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 

When Jesus stated that coming with him not only meant saying “no” to themselves, but also taking up their own cross, he wasn’t playin’. The disciples would have instantly recognized what that meant. The cross was an instrument of torture. It was a place of humiliation. It was an invitation to join Jesus on death row.

25 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. 26 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?

But oh, the benefits of that choice! The reward for total self-emptying is the fullness of grace. The plateau that we reach when we take up our crosses and follow Jesus is a place of eternal life that is filled with joy, devoid of pain, and there is not a weight scale in sight. Heaven has no calories, hallelujah! Tacos, here I come.

We are invited to this same promise. Following Jesus means walking away from our sinful selves and walking toward a Savior who leads by example. This life is filled with service to others, obedience, compassion, kindness, worship, prayer, imitating the mind of Christ, and loving as he loves.

Want to come along? You have everything to gain.

Heaven to Gain by Wende Pritchard

Lose your Life

In an earlier devotional, I referenced the story from Greek mythology of King Midas, who was granted a wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. Then he discovered that the food he needed to live could not be consumed, as it became gold the minute he touched it. I think this is a perfect allegory for what Jesus was talking about when he said, “Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?” We are reminded that when we pursue worldly goods, ideas, agendas, and behaviors, we risk losing the eternal life to which all are called through Christ Jesus.

Take a look at this exchange between Jesus and his disciples:

Mark 8 (Common English Bible)

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”

Peter is admonished for thinking “human thoughts.” What human thoughts do you engage in that are ungodly? What behaviors would condemn you as someone speaking for Satan? Is Jesus trying to correct something in your life today? Say NO to yourself.

34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35 All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36 Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives?37 What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

The invitation is to follow Jesus. That means saying NO to all of the unholy things we say, do, think, and participate in. Those things are not worthy of a holy life, and those things are not worthy of you. Jesus invites us to take up our cross and follow him, and in that way we will save our lives as we lose them…in other words, lose the secular lives we are living and gain eternal lives in Christ.

The call is real. The circumstance is dire. The time is upon us. Lose your life because of Jesus, and you will gain heaven itself. And that, my friends, is good news.

Take Up Your Cross