Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stooping to Conquer

The high school I attended had an open campus, and sometimes I ate lunch at a little hamburger joint nearby called Dairy Treat.  One day, they had a special posted on the white board: Double cheeseburger, large fries, and a milkshake for $3.50.  Well, it would have been obscene to pass up a deal like that.  I ate it all, and it was good.  My last class of the day was athletics, and I was still full by that time.  I wasn’t worried about it; it was the off-season, which meant we could usually get away with not doing anything strenuous.  But on this day of all days, one of our coaches had decided that we were going to run a mile.  So I decided to jog slowly, so as not to jostle the heavy load I was carrying.  I knew most of the guys would be doing the same thing, so I wouldn’t exactly stand out with my lack of effort.  And when the race started, that’s just what I did.   Then I noticed a kid I didn’t much care for, a smart-mouthed little redneck, running several yards ahead of me.  I couldn’t let myself lose to him, even though I felt at that point like I had swallowed a bowling ball.  Long story short: I ended up beating the kid I hated, but lost my lunch 10 seconds after crossing the finish line.  

Why would I make myself sick like that?  Why not sit the race out?  Pride, pure and simple.  In sports, that’s a good thing, although I didn’t exactly win any medals that day.  But in life, it’s toxic.  We don’t like to lose, do we?  Even if it hurts us, even if it poisons relationships, we need to be first.  Yet Jesus says (Mark 9:33-35, among many other passages) that in order to be a true child of the Kingdom of God, we need to intentionally lose.  We put others first; that’s the way of Christ. 

We're in a series right now called "The New You," about how salvation means more than just forgiveness of sins and escaping Hell; it's a process of personal renovation.  God wants to change you into something better. A huge part of that change is taking away our prideful, self-centered vanity and replacing it with the servant-heartedness of Jesus.  That primarily happens as we practice the spiritual discipline of service. I say service is the most biblical, most important, most soul-transforming discipline of them all--even more so than Scripture reading and prayer.  It's also the hardest, even harder than fasting or silence.  This Sunday, I'll talk about why it's so important, and how we can do it well.   

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