Self-Preservation and Quality of Life

My family tries to eat healthy.  At least I thought we did.  That’s the thing about eating healthy.  It’s never enough.

You may have traded in your double-caffeinated energy drink for green tea but what do you know about the bags that hold those green tea leaves?  Where did they come from?  Who handled them?  And what about the staple that holds the string on to the top of the bag?  Do you know what happens when dangerous toxins are released from a single staple and enter your digestive system?

Or what about bread?  Everyone knows that white bread was invented by the Nazis in an effort to slowly kill off all Americans.  Not wanting the Nazis to get the upper hand, I made the decision a long time ago to switch to wheat bread.  A few weeks ago my wife went a step further and started making our own bread.  Take that, Nazis!

Not so fast.

At the health food store the other day the lady behind the counter let us know that any bread was bad.  She also went on to inform us that sliding boards, nice walks in the park and laughter were slowly killing us.  That’s when she recommended that we start eating organic lettuce pockets filled with air and a tiny drop of all natural butterfly tears.  They were on sale for $298.76.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

Two things fuel the health food industry.  Self-preservation and quality of life.  The thinking is that if you eat organic lettuce pockets filled with air and a tiny drop of all natural butterfly tears in your 30s and 40s you’ll live to be happy, healthy and 102-years-old.  What’s not said is that all of your friends will be dead and you’ll be broke.

Jesus had something to say about self-preservation and quality of life.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28 (ESV)

Peter and John left their fishing business to follow Jesus.  Years later, Peter was crucified.  John finished out his days on a prison island.  Stephen was a promising young leader in a promising young church but he was killed because he took the Bible a little too seriously for some of the religious leaders’ liking.  And Paul was a highly educated man who considered it all sewage in comparison to the greater glory of knowing Christ.  He would spend the majority of his Christian life on the run, getting beaten and in prison.  He too would die for following Jesus.

There’s an interesting thing about self-preservation and quality of life.  Most of the people who spend their lives pursuing those two things never seem to get them.  It’s sort of like the carrot on the stick that the rabbit just never can catch.  It’s not really a life worth living.

True self-preservation and quality of life comes from giving up.  Giving up doesn’t mean laying around, eating potted meat and watching Welcome Back Kotter reruns all day.  It just means that as long as we are holding on to something, we are never really free.  Real freedom is found in doing big things for the glory of Jesus Christ because we know that wherever we go or whatever happens, he’s holding us.

I’m still eating healthy.  But I know that self-preservation can only go so far.  And quality of life cannot ultimately be found in flax seeds.

In a lot of ways, the call to follow Jesus is a call to self-destruction and the end of life as we know it.

And that’s when life really begins.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:9-10 (ESV)

Settle Down, Sport

Earlier this week the Atlanta Falcons played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. In an absolute shocker to the experts on ESPN, the Falcons won. For once, I was proud of my favorite team.

I had a blast watching the game, not just because of the outcome but also because of my conversations with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

There were jabs from my friend Shane, who would cheer for the Taliban if Peyton Manning was their quarterback.

There were the usual shots from my friend Stormy, a guy who finds the most evil team in any particular sport and makes them his favorite.  He would cheer for the Taliban even without Peyton Manning.

And my friends Dave and Jamie who, although they didn’t have a dog in the fight, were just enjoying a good game.

During a big game like this, there’s always another group of people who are using social media. These are the people who are appalled that NFL fans paint their faces and carry signs to games but do not paint their faces and carry signs to church.

Their status updates read something like this.

Donnie Dravecky When’s the last time you gave someone a high five at church? Oh, but you’ll do it over a field goal?!!!!  SMH

Patricia Sullingham I’ll bet 80,000 people wouldn’t show up for a church service on Monday night.  :\

There’s no doubt that sports is an idol in our culture.  People spend too much money on it, athletes are worshiped and kids are brought up believing the false gospel of sports that says a scholarship will bring salvation. I get that things are out of whack. But is it just sports? Isn’t family, or even church an idol for some people too?  While we’re blowing up sports, should we aim our social network nuclear arsenal at those two institutions as well?

Patty Samson Donaldson Oh, so you’re taking pictures of our food again. And I see you had chicken. If only we would feast on the Scriptures instead of fowl.

TaylorAnd Trevor Thornbury So you had fun at the park with your kids, huh? Well, while you were playing Christians were being persecuted. But have fun.

Instead of using nukes, Jesus used a scalpel.

In John 12, Jesus is enjoying a meal with friends. His friend Martha was doing her usual serving while Lazarus was sitting with Jesus. Another friend, Mary, did something crazy.  She took some really expensive ointment and used it to clean Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ disciples were there and one of them responded in a way that, on the surface, seemed very missional.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  John 12:4-5 (ESV)

“Yeah,” we might have tweeted along with Judas, “doesn’t she realize how many mouths she could have fed if she sold that stuff instead of pouring it all over the floor?”

SMH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙁

But John clues us in on the motive behind Judas’ attack.

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:6 (ESV)

Judas didn’t care about the poor and he wasn’t being missional.  He was trying to cover up his own sins by accusing Mary.  The same thing can happen when we use big sporting events as our own personal platform for reminding people of how much they don’t love Jesus.  But where does it all end?  How many people went to hell in the time it took to tweet, “How many people went to hell during that last touch down?”  And why even bother with Facebook and Twitter anyway?  Shouldn’t the Internet just be used to watch Billy Graham clips on YouTube?

Jesus, with scalpel in hand, tells Judas to back off by digging beneath the surface to the source of the problem.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  John 12:7-8 (ESV)

Jesus knew that there was more to the story than perfume, money and the poor.  He knew that Mary was worshiping him. And he knew that it is possible to talk a good game about helping the poor and still not worship him.

We can try as hard as we want to remove idols but unless we’re replacing them by worshiping Jesus they will simply sprout back up in a different form. This is why Paul tells us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5) as well as telling us to, “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10). And then he tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If you’re not a football fan, have a great weekend doing what you do and do it for the glory of God.

If you are a football fan, enjoy this weekend’s games for the glory of God.

Unless, of course, you plan on cheering for Denver.

This post was originally written on September 20, 2012. It was updated on August 29, 2013.