Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Choose Sides

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.”
Mark 8:34-38

During WWII the United States military drafted many men into the armed services. You can imagine that few men who were fit for duty and who actually wanted to serve in the military were turned down. One young man was. In 1942, two years after having been turned down, this young man sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt requesting to be allowed to serve. He had a particularly strong reason to want to fight in the war and the United States had an equally strong reason to doubt his motives. You see this young man's name was William Patrick Hitler. He was Adolph Hitler's nephew. Incredibly, after being cleared for service by none other than J. Edgar Hoover himself, William did go on to serve in the U.S. Navy from 1944 until he was injured in 1947. (William's letter and other details of this story can be read here on the blog Letters of Note.)

We all have to choose sides. This is no less true in the epic struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan. Jesus tells us that there is an associated cost no matter what side you choose. If you choose to follow Christ, then everyday you must take up your cross. You must die to your fleshly desires and choose to live for His kingdom and glory. No doubt this is a high price to pay, but the accompanying reward makes it worthwhile. Those who lose their life for Jesus in this world will preserve their eternal life in the next. They will gain an inheritance in Heaven with the Son (I Peter 1:3-5).

On the other hand, if you choose to live for yourself in this world, then you can fulfill all your lusts and fleshly impulses. You can serve the gods of money, self, sex, drugs, or men's approval. But this will be a pitiful comfort when you lose your soul for eternity. Having chosen Satan's side in this world, your eternal fate will be tied to his in the next. Those who reject Jesus will spend an eternity in torment in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:7-15). Additionally, there are those who claim to follow Christ, but whose behavior betrays them. If you are ashamed of Christ and do not obey His commands, you will lose your soul.

This world and the next are at odds. You simply can't have both. You must make a choice, one that will require you (like William) to turn your back on old ways of living, on friends, and even on family at times. Think carefully about your choice and count the cost but remember you are not guaranteed tomorrow. I urge you to choose Christ now by faith, believing that what you gain far outweighs anything you give up.

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