Friday, November 2, 2012

Abandon All

“Whoever does not bear (take up, carry) his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce (forsake, leave behind, abandon) all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14: 27, 33

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Hebrews 11: 24-26

Moses, one of our great Fathers of faith. Hidden among the reeds of the Nile by his mother during an infanticide initiated by the King, Hebrew baby Moses was found by the King’s daughter, taken in as her own son, and “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:27). He was not born into luxury and wealth, but he sure was raised in it. Moses had everything at his disposal, and a great position of influence where he could have helped the Hebrew people. Instead, when he was 40 years old, while trying to look out for a fellow Hebrew who was being beaten by an Egyptian, Moses killed the Egyptian, then fled when he realized others knew about the murder. He gave up his rich status to identify with his people, God’s people. He then went into the sheep-tending business, married a nice shepherd girl, and lived out his life in peace for forty years.

Then God gets his attention with a burning bush, a bush engulfed in flame but not consumed.

“Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5).  

Why take off his sandals? Moses probably had some pretty raunchy feet after hanging out with sheep day in and day out for forty years, yet God would not let him come close with his sandals on (probably the more hygienic approach). 

God is willing to get involved in our dirt. He wants to feel through our hands and feet. He is not a distant God, watching from afar, waiting for us to mess up. He is an intimate God who desires to be close to His beloved, to be involved in our messy lives. He lets us come to Him with dirty feet and hands, physically and metaphorically. Moses was not innocent. He came to God with dirt on his feet and blood on his hands, and God brought him into His fold and loved him.

God told Moses he would be delivering the Hebrews from slavery. Uh, what?! Paraphrase…“Yeah, you dirty murderer, you’re going to go back to the country you fled, the country where you've got a price on your head, and you’re going to tell that King to let My people go.” Moses gives all kinds of excuses: I’m not worthy to go, they won’t listen to me, I’m not eloquent enough… “Please send someone else!” (Ex 4:13). Doesn't really sound like a great Father of Faith now does it? God deals with Moses patiently, giving him signs and wonders, giving an answer to all his excuses. Even when Moses asks God to send someone else, and God’s anger is “kindled against Moses,” God continues to give Moses answers, telling him He will send his brother Aaron with him to be his mouthpiece.

And finally, Moses goes. After excuses and worries, Moses finally goes to deliver the Israelites from bondage.  He is counted as a Father of faith because even though it took him a while, Moses chose to step out in faith and obey his God, no matter the cost, no matter how difficult it may be. He forsook his rich upbringing to wallow in the dirt with his people, the people of God. He forsook his high position, his status, his worldliness, and his possessions to be with God’s people.

“Whoever does not bear (take up, carry) his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce (forsake, leave behind, abandon) all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14: 27, 33

This verse challenges me, inspires me, and convicts me.  Have I renounced, abandoned, all that I have to be a disciple of Christ? The answer is plain to me. No, I have not. Unlike Moses, I cling to my possessions, my status, my worldliness, even as I am sickened by it. 

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ" Philippians 3:7-8

I am like an alcoholic in the first stage of recovery: I am admitting the truth about myself and I want change. I no longer want to be bound by these chains, these things, these desires. I want to live in the complete freedom offered by Jesus Christ. But slaves who have been slaves for so long have a hard time learning how to be free. I have been a slave to my passions, to my possessions, to my thoughts for so long that learning how to be completely free of those in Jesus has been quite the process. I’m not talking about Buddhism where the ultimate goal is Nirvana, a state of non-feeling. I’m talking about being free from feeling like I need something other than God Himself. No more anxiety about things: food, clothing, rent, fashion, pop culture, that new purse, that new whatever. No more anxiety, because I need nothing.

The song "Zion and Babylon" by Josh Garrels has been on repeat in my head lately, reminding me of the ideas in this blog: 
"Oh great mammon of form and function 
Careless consumerist consumption 
Dangerous dysfunction 
Disguised as expensive taste 
I'm a people disgraced 
By what I claim I need 
And what I want to waste 
I take no account for nothing 
If it's not mine 
It's a misappropriation of funds 
Protect my ninety percent with my guns 
Whose side am I on? 
Well who's winning?"

You can hear this awesome song here:

Greed stems from our skewed thinking that there is not enough, that if we take only what we need we will run out and there will never be enough of that thing for us again. I’m not just talking about big scale Black Friday type greed where we trample each other for non-essentials...

I’m talking about the small anxiousness that comes from moments like when the fridge is running low on food, when my favorite book goes on sale and I can’t get to the store, when my pen runs out of ink and I don’t have a backup, when I want my boss to see the good things I have been doing but he’s not paying attention… maybe you can’t relate to any of those things and they are just my weird insecurities, but hopefully you get the point.

God has assured us we have everything we need in Him: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). We have no reason to be anxious. We must abandon all we have to be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray for your Bride, the Church in North America, that we will not seek our own gain, but the gain of others.  That we will abandon all we have to be intimate followers of Jesus Christ, going and preaching the gospel in word and deed to the entire world, showing that we are followers of Christ by our love. Let them know us by our love, Lord. Unify Your Church, help us set aside politics and useless quarrels, and focus on the Cross, the beautiful cross that unified us all through the blood of our Savior. 

*First three photos taken by Brandt Russo, available for sale, proceeds toward the poor:

*Black Friday photo from Google image search

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