The opportunity and challenge of the cross…

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Scripture: Mark 5:When (the demon-possessed man) saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him.. “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10  He begged Jesus earnestly not to send them out of the country…“Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. 14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country… 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.

Observation: Today we celebrate this story of Jesus’ triumph over the forces of evil tormenting a man – as well we should. However, most of the people present at the time didn’t celebrate. There was a cost associated with this miracle. The loss of 2,000 swine, which would have had a monumental value in the ancient world.

When there is the potential for a great work of God, there is often a great cost that comes with it. 

Application: This principal is true for you and me as well. At the church I lead, we often say “every kairos comes with a cross”. A “kairos” is a “time” in life when we might embrace the Kingdom of God more deeply. It’s a fork in the road that leads us closer to God and his preferred future for us. However, standing in the middle of the road is always a cross – something we must embrace or endure that is difficult.

Too often we step back from the opportunity of kairos because we fear the cross.

Jesus said it this way, “The one who seeks to save his life will lose it.” We are all hard-wired to seek self-preservation first, so resisting the cross is completely normal. However, we’ll never realize the new life Jesus has come to give us without over-riding this impulse and embracing the cross. Some questions:

  • What is the “kairos” staring at you in this season of life?
  • What opportunity does this kairos present to you?
  • What is the cross that comes with this opportunity?
  • What would it look like for you to overcome your fear and embrace the cross?

Prayer: Gracious God, the cross is hard. Always has been. Always will be. Give us grace to embrace the crosses of life and live into the Kingdom possibilities you place before us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

2 thoughts on “The opportunity and challenge of the cross…

  1. After reading the 1st reading from this Sunday’s (4/24) lectionary taken from ACTS 14:21-27, I thought more about this blog about the implications of the cross. It evoked a question I’ve thought about for some time.
    The reading begins with verses 21 & 22: “After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
    to enter the kingdom of God.’”
    It is the last sentence that stopped me, specifically the words “NECESSARY” and “MANY. It isn’t “may require” or “might involve”. It is “necessary”. It also isn’t “an occasional” or “a few”. It is “many”.
    The high likelihood that being a devoted follower of Christ involves doesn’t surprise me, but to say it is essentially required to have lots of hardships is not only daunting, but to a certain extent seems to contradict the core belief of being saved by grace alone and not by works.
    Re-phrasing the last sentence of verse 22 says if we don’t suffer many hardships because of our faith we won’t enter the kingdom of God. I am not deterred by the statement, and in fact have suffered hardships already, but for it to be a requirement vs. a likely outcome, feels in conflict with the gift of free grace.

    • Great questions Tim. Three things:

      1. While there are universal principals contained in the scriptures, there are also parts that speak to specific situations and contexts at a given time. In Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch the believers in question were literally being persecuted, some killed. Staying true to the faith in that situation might require allegiance unto death.

      2. To a lesser extent, however, ALL believers have to endure difficulties for the sake of Christ in our journey as disciples. That’s just a fact. As Jesus said, “take up your cross and follow me”.

      3. It can be confusing for us Protestants because we tend to equate “salvation” and “enter the Kingdom of God”. Not the same thing. We are given an identity as children of God by grace alone, through faith in Christ Jesus. That puts us at step one. We are part of God’s family. However, to mature in faith is to embrace the Kingdom of God more deeply. It is to surrender my life to the ways of Kingdom of God – in my time (Sabbath rest, daily abiding with the Lord via scripture/prayer, so on) in my money (surrendering 10% of my income off the top, reflecting God’s generosity toward others) in my relationships (committing myself to those I love, forgiving those who sin against me), and so on. I can be a newborn child of God in my baptism and do none of the Kingdom things I mentioned. As such, I am “saved” but I know little of the life Jesus came to give us right now – not just at my death.

      Let’s talk more soon. Need to catch up! Love you brother.

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