It’s true, men don’t like following direction. This came home to me the other day as I was assembling a small table for our living room. There weren’t that many pieces and the assembly “seemed” straight forward so I dove right in. That is until I had to connect the last piece. It wouldn’t work. No matter how hard I tried to figure out how to make it work, it wasn’t going to happen until I disassembled most of what I’d already done to correct my failure to read the directions! It took me twice as long as it should have, not to mention my frustration (and embarrassment) on top of all this.
Most of life is this way. Our egos get ahead of wisdom and we find ourselves either having to backtrack and correct our error OR having to live with “poorly assembled” lives.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We aren’t forever condemned to keep repeating this pattern of “almost right” over and over again until we expire!
In today’s Gospel Lesson our Lord Jesus lays out for us three steps to following “directions” that set us free to be like Him in all His freedom, peace, and strength. The Lord invites us through His wisdom to discover the pattern of life that creates joy, freedom and peace. Isn’t that what we hope to “assemble” in our own lives?
Look at Matthew 16:20-24: At that time, Jesus strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.”
Poor Peter, thinking he knew better than the Lord how to “assemble” salvation for the world!
But Jesus reveals to His disciples and us the directions for a well lived life.
First, Realize. The problem in my life isn’t outside circumstances; it’s me. If I don’t confront myself and my own weaknesses of depending on my undisciplined wisdom, my short sighted desires. If I start with admitting that I am the source of my challenges, I set myself free to deal with the one thing in this life I CAN control; ME. I usually have very limited control over the outside circumstances of my life but I have complete control over my attitude, my actions, and my priorities. Starting here is the key to a well “assembled” life.
Next, Act. If I am going to take the next step in this “assembly” of a meaningful life, I am going to have to “take up” my own cross. Frankly, no Jew of the Lord’s day misunderstood what the Lord was saying here. There is only one purpose for a cross. Yep, it means the death penalty. Taking up a cross means I act on the truth that only in truly dying to my old life will I ever have the freedom to embrace His life for me. Trying to hold on to my old life and just adding some of the Lord’s life here and there makes for a messy “assembly” My life won’t turn out well. I have to courageously and purposefully act on the truth that if I “die” with Him to my old life, I will then (and only then) join Him in His resurrection. New life depends on saying “good bye” to my “old” life.
Finally, MOVE! The final direction in assembling my life on Christ is to MOVE. After I’ve taken the first step in realizing I have to start with me, and then shoulder my cross, I can’t stop there just holding my cross. I have to move forward. I have to see Christ ahead of me and I have to follow in His footsteps. That certainly will take me to the place of crucifixion and dying to my old life, but following Christ doesn’t stop there. I will go on to follow Him to His burial and then to His resurrection. But that isn’t the end either! Following Jesus means also I go to where He is now: in intimate connection and life with the Father. This is my true life and destiny.
Today, are you having trouble “assembling” your life in such a way that things “fit?” Perhaps its time to finally admit you need to “follow the directions.” These three steps given to us by Christ is the path to the life we were created to have. So today, let’s follow the directions and watch as our life is “put together” well!