Losing our Life for Christís Sake
Matthew 16:21-26 - 5th Sunday after Trinity - July 20, 2014

Matthew 16:21 ¶ From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
24 ¶ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Dear children of God, dear baptized of God,

What is more important than what we have in Christ?: Forgiveness for all our sins, the promise of everlasting life, and the gift of His Spirit, who brings us faith and understanding in His Word. These things and many more Christ freely gave to us when we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. May we then continue in our Baptism by continuing in the comfort and assurance of God’s Word.

What is that assurance? Your salvation is so sure and certain, because it is based upon God’s free grace alone in Christ. Jesus did enough for us. He lived the perfect life for us. He went to the cross for us. He died and rose again for us. He says, only believe and you will be saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” And, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

A few Sundays ago we discussed a comforting fact, that, being born of God, “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” One of those mysteries Jesus speaks of today. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.”

According to human reason, this seems so backwards. How can we gain by losing? Therefore, the wisdom of the world has little use for this “riddle”. “Who in their right mind would deny themselves of anything, especially if something makes me feel good? How can I gain by losing? I think I’ll stick with my earthly things, and my earthly happiness.”

Yet, dear baptized of God, these words take on a much different meaning for you because you see and understand the key to them with God’s Spirit guiding you. “W hosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.” Jesus Christ is key. Nothing in this life matters more than Him for He is our only Savior.

Losing our earthly life for Christ includes forsaking the worship of earthly things and turning rather to our Baptism in Christ, for He did all things needful to save us. Losing our earthly life includes seeking first Christ’s kingdom and His righteousness and forsaking the worldly wisdom that says our own righteousness is sufficient for salvation. Losing our earthly life includes giving up on seeking true peace in the things of this world and turning rather to the peace that only Jesus Christ can give in the forgiveness of all our sins.

And yes, losing our earthly life also includes taking up whatever cross Christ chooses to give us, remembering that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We join Moses, who, by faith, chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” We trust that Christ knows exactly how to use our crosses and afflictions for good. He knows how to customize every last detail in our life in the way that best serves the salvation of our eternal soul. When we hurt, when we feel pain, we trust that Christ will use it for our ultimate good, in the way that will best serve the strengthening of our faith. He will continue to send crosses so that we continue to look for salvation not in the fading things of this world, but rather in our Baptism wherin Jesus washed all our sins away. Paul speaks of “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

No one can see or measure the forgiveness that Jesus earned for us on the cross, but it is there for us in His Word and Sacraments. It is there for anyone who would receive Him, no matter how great his sins may be. If God can use earthly suffering to turn hearts to repentance and faith in His forgiving grace, who is anyone to say that suffering is bad? “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy Word.”

Yet, the world continues to have no use for the crosses and suffering of which Christ speaks. The world wants earthly glory, power, fame, and fortune. It “savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Above all it wants that “wow factor”, excitement, entertainment, and the fulfillment of the fleshly desires. Yet, “ what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

The peace that comes from serving sin only lasts for a little while, “for a season” and really doesn’t satisfy us anyway. The peace that Christ gives lasts for all eternity, way beyond this life. His forgiveness brings us a clear conscience, freedom from guilt, and a life worth living. No earthly treasure or pleasure can ever compare to the spiritual joy He brings to us, the eternal life He earned for us, and the true saving faith He creates within us, through the Word and Sacraments.

“Losing our life” means that we, by the aid of His Spirit, continue to repent of our earthly, selfish desires, and seek first Christ and His righteousness. Losing our life means that, by His grace we continue to find rest for our eternal soul, not in the fading things of this world, but in His Word and Sacraments. Losing our life means that we continue to find comfort and assurance not in our own righteousness, but in Christ’s death and resurrection, for He died that we might live, not just now, but for all eternity. He promises that just as surely as He lives, we too will live.

His promise is that He will continue to remain with us by His Word and Spirit. He will never leave nor forsake us especially in our time of need, especially when we do not understand why we must bear the crosses He gives us. He will continue to give us that peace that passes all human understanding, peace in the forgiveness of our sins, comfort and assurance in His Word and Sacraments. In Christ’s name. Amen.