Gospel: Matthew 16.21-28 tells of Jesus telling His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem to die. Peter argued with Him and Jesus told him that in opposing Him, he was like the satan and then said “if anyone wanted to follow Him, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and and be willing to lay down their life for His sake.” Jesus then said that some present will see Him coming in His kingdom. Jesus is telling us that we need to follow Him and this means dying to ourselves with its own selfish desires and passions and accepting the suffering the goes with committing ourselves to Him. Learning to see life through the eyes of Jesus is to become wise (Col 1.9-13). We can do that as we come to possess Jesus or be possessed by Him, and dwell in Him. Jesus is the Wisdom described in Proverbs 8. Christian virtue as described in After You Believe by N.T, Wright is all about being remade in God’s image, becoming truly human, through Christian fellowship, prayer, and mutual Christian support. The goal is maturity (Eph 1.17-19) in Christ as described in Eph 4.13-16. This is what renewal of the mind (Rm 12.2) means. It involves acquiring the right habits of heart and mind that will please God. But it involves suffering because we are part of a fallen world. We are selfish and sinful and we live with selfish and sinful people and this is a burden we are called to bear. We see their sins very clearly and they see ours, but ironically we fail to see our own. If we were not selfish, it wouldn’t be hard to bear the selfishness of others, but since we are selfish, their selfishness can drive us crazy! This is especially so the more intimate the relationship. No wonder half of marriages end in divorce. So Jesus calls us to deny ourselves as He did. Think how He must have suffered because of His disciples’ sinfulness and selfishness. He tells us to take up our cross which means both to suffer and to die to ourselves, but also to put to death our selfish selves. This means not to follow our own desires but to follow HIs. But following Him is the way of suffering and death. He bids us to come and die! Paul suffered also as he followed Christ ( 1 Cor 4.16,17;10.32-11.1; Phil 2.19-22; 3.17; 4.9; 1 These 1.5b-6; 2 These 3.7-9). Suffering comes with following Jesus and suffering leads to our growing in Him. The following Scriptures say that suffering is ultimately beneficial: Rm 5.1-5; Jas 1.2-4; 1 Pet 4.12-14.. Suffering begets patience, endurance, perseverance, character, hope, and finally begins to reveal God’s glory in us. Both James and Peter speaks of trials suggesting that God uses tribulation to test us, and if we respond as overcomers rather than victims, we glorify God and even experience joy as Paul and Silas did while suffering in the Philippian jail (Acts 16.23-25). Meeting challenges and being victorious over trials bring joy. Paul exemplified Christian living on the model of the classical virtue tradition, radically modified and rethought around Jesus and the Spirit. 2 Pet 1.5-8 says we must bring every bit of energy we have to bear on the task of supplementing our faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with patience, patience with godliness, godliness with family affection, and family affection with love. Having these things in abundance ensures that we will bear fruit in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Memory Verse: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kind of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Mt. 5.10-12).