Thursday, 14 November 2013

Chocolate, or Carrot and Stick?

Mark 8:34-38
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
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Here we see the comparison of two different lifestyles: Living for Christ, and living for ourselves. We can live for Christ, which will be harder in this life and often seem like we are missing out, or we can live for ourselves, reject God and his good plan and live how we want. What are the results? Those who follow Christ will be saved eternally, forgiven, redeemed and accepted as God's children, while those who reject him will be rejected by him and face his eternal wrath for their sin.

The Chocolate

I thought I'd sum these two lifestyles up with a comparison between Chocolate and being offered a carrot and a beating along with it. Living for God is more like the chocolate - he offers so many promises and the eternal benefits of following him are far better then anything Satan can offer us in this world.

Don't hear me wrong - we will be persecuted, and we will suffer on this earth for Christ. He calls us even in these verses to take up our cross daily, to suffer as he suffered and to be ready to die for him every day. 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that we will be persecuted. But Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 that even this is a blessing, and James 1:2-4 tells us that when we suffer God is using those things to make us more like him. If we are willing to lose our lives for God, we will save them eternally and be with him.

Yet as I said before, even though we suffer here, life is short. It comes to an end, and everyone will face God's judgement. The only way we can be saved is by putting our faith in Jesus and repenting of sin - he forgives completely. As a result, God also adopts us God's children, and we are made co-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8). We will go to heaven, where God will wipe away all our tears (Revelations 21) and we will be in his presence, glorifying him eternally. What an awesome blessing! That is the chocolate, and no matter what we go through here, it is definitely worth it.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
The Carrot and Stick
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it...What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Living for ourselves is like a carrot when the gospel is fully understood. Yet it is still an appealing carrot. Having whatever we want, doing whatever we want to do is enjoyable. It does feel great and it is desirable. In fact, there are so many things that we long to do that God restricts us from doing - not because he is cruel, but because they don't fit within his law which is based on his character.

These things look so appealing, but in reality they mean nothing. They promise, and even deliver to some extent, but we all die. We all grow old, and these things cannot save us after we die. Who would take their best life now and forfeit a far better eternity? Who would take a carrot when chocolate is offered to them? Who would forfeit their souls in exchange for the world?

So what's the stick? I mentioned it before: it's God's wrath against sin. We all sin, and therefore we all miss God's perfect standard (he demands absolute obedience to his perfect law). This has been the case since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, and will be the case until Christ returns. Let me prove the point to you. The 1st commandment says "You shall have no other gods before me." Yet how many of us spend more time thinking about ourselves then God? Thinking about what will please us instead of thinking about how we can serve God. We all sin and that means we deserve God's wrath - his justice, eternally (i.e. hell). That's what we get if we choose the carrot - slavery in sin and then hell eternally.

Why would you choose the carrot? God made another way: he sent his son, Jesus, into the world as a man. Jesus came and he lived perfectly. He obeyed God's commands completely. Then he died in our place. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus alone had not sinned and did not deserve to die. Yet he not only died, he suffered. He took our sin if we put our faith in him - he took all of God's wrath for it (what we would suffer for eternity in hell). Then to prove that he had truly done it he rose again from the dead. Since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and he rose from the dead, sin must have been dealt with! And he tells us in Mark 1:15 to "Repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand". Everyone who puts their faith in Jesus and who repents of their sins will be saved.

The conclusion

How could anyone accept a carrot after tasting Chocolate? Yet this is what we do constantly in our lives. We have the gospel, the rich truths of God's word, and we trade them for the lies of sin. We have the deep joy that comes from serving God, yet we take the carrot offered by Satan's temptation of pleasure in this world.

So what's the challenge out of this?

Keep an eternal perspective. Don't just weigh up the benefits in this life, compare them with eternity - salvation in Jesus, or eternal punishment if you serve yourself and reject God. Consider your life - have you put your faith in Jesus? Only he can save.

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