Letters From Paul The Parishioner (Letter 4: Pastor Pete's Response, We Journey Into The Cross))

Dear Paul,

It saddens my heart to read your letter. I can sense your grief, hurt and confusion and for that I am truly sorry for the anguish that you are going through. 

I once was told that this journey of the Christian life is a journey ‘into’ and ‘towards’ the cross of Christ. The speaker essentially was saying that the Cross of Christ is not a launching pad for something ‘next’ but is a foundation that we spend a life time being absorbed into. In other words, this journey of the Christian life is into the crucified, where our sins are killed and where we are resurrected daily in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, Luther once said that the whole life of a Christian is one of repentance… a daily dying of self at the hands of the Law and a daily resurrection, revealing and exaltation of Christ for us. This is the quintessential picture of what it means to live by faith day to day in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. (Gal. 2:19-20) We no longer live but it is Christ who lives in us.
But more specifically what does living out this Christian life look like as we journey into the cross of Christ? Simply put, it looks like a life of going from independence ‘to’ dependence. Jesus said it best in Matthew 18 where he says that we are to ‘change’ and become like little children. The great thing about children is that they are receptive/needy/dependent, especially little babies. We are to change and become like dependent, needy, crying babies that can be served, ministered to and taken care of. The word ‘helpless’ also helps communicate a place of blessedness. We can hear the words of Matthew 5:3 when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are the spiritually bankrupt? Yes, blessed are those who have been brought to a place of dependence, helplessness and neediness for they are receptive to receiving the gift of God, the Gospel.
However, what about our actions and service to our neighbor? The answer: we cannot properly love God or our neighbor until we have first been properly loved by God. (1 John 4:19) Then and only then are we free to love God and our neighbor as redeemed and forgiven ragamuffins.  
So how are we to live? We live as grateful beggars receiving warm bread and loving our neighbor by pointing our neighbor to and giving our neighbor the warm bread! I just love how Jesus summarizes this life of sanctification for us when he says that the essence of the 10 commandments is simply 'love.' Loving God and loving our neighbor. That is sanctification at its best! 
The Christian life is one of receiving love and giving love. However, how well does my life match this faith that I profess? Painfully I acknowledge that I often don’t do well in this area. Too often I resist my beggarly status and resort back to the spirit of independence which inadvertently means that I end up resisting God’s gifts and try to establish myself. 
Furthermore, the charge/challenge to love my neighbor and God in perfect thought, word and deed? Well, I mess that up too when I end up turning inward towards my own desires and ambitions. Thus, I fail to have consistency in my life and profession. What this all means is that God yet again gets to correct me, discipline me and graciously drive me to a point of contrition and repentance so that I might be placed yet again in a place of receptivity and dependence upon His grace for me.
The challenge for me is that I so badly resist the disposition of dependence. The very gift of being dependent is what I want but that which I do not do! Who rescues me from all of this? Thanks be to God who gives me and you the victory in Jesus Christ! Praise God that there is no condemnation in Jesus Christ.
May the Lord bless you and keep you my friend. Let's sit down for coffee worship this Sunday to visit some more.
We are buried together deeply in the wounds of Christ,
Pete The Pretend Pastor