Have you ever noticed that most popular songs are romantic in nature? They almost always are about the romantic relationship between two people. The challenge for an artist is to make his song distinctive through whatever means he can find. I am reminded of a song from some years ago with the title, I believe, “Baby, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” In order to make the song memorable (and have a little fun) the artist purposely stuttered the first syllable of “Baby” so that it came out “Be-Be-Be-Baby, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”. Keep that idea in mind, that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”, and I will come back to it.
In the Gospel according to Mark we read, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s sake will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). As the second verse points out, this life we live basically boils down to one question: Will we sacrifice this life for the next one or the next one for this one? This life or the next one? That is our choice.
Let us say you decide to dedicate this life for the life to come and want to know how to go about doing it. The first verse tells us how. It describes picking up your cross, denying yourself, and following Christ. A handy way to remember that is PDF. No, I am not talking about a file you email to someone, but an easy way to remember our path. “P” stands for Picking-up your cross, “D” stands for Denying yourself, and “F” stands for Following Christ.
Picking-up your cross means accepting the everyday burdens of this life, like homework, chores, paying the mortgage, and mowing the grass; not to mention a host of other tasks and obligations. It means accepting the burdens and pains of this life, the uncertainty, stress, and trouble that come along our way. It means accepting them, not fleeing from them. We handle them as best we can with God’s help. But picking-up your cross also involves more than the ordinary troubles of life, heavy as they can be; it also means we have to pick-up our own cross of love for God and neighbor.
This leads us to denying ourselves. This means doing what needs to be done, what should be done in loving service to God and others, instead of what we want to do. A parent does this for his/her children. A husband does this for his wife as she does for him. Sometimes we are called to do this for our parents when they can no longer do for themselves. This means we may have to help someone at a time that is inconvenient for us. We may have to go to the grocery store when we would rather be out on a walk. We may have to attend some function when we would rather be watching TV.
But if we do these things, we are denying ourselves and more importantly, following Christ. Think about it. What did He do? He did not have to leave Heaven. He did it for our sake, not His. Look at scripture. Where did Jesus go? We see Him in the temple worshipping God. We see Him helping and healing others. We see Him witnessing to the goodness and glory of God. We see Him enduring with grace when His words are twisted out of context, when He is falsely accused, and when He is beaten and murdered. We see that before His death on the Cross, He died many small deaths in the interruptions and inconveniences of His ministry for us. Likewise, we are called to endure many mini-deaths in the sacrifice of our time, attention, and energy for the well-being and benefit of others.
If we accept our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Christ in His life, service, and death, we will follow Him in His resurrection and ultimately into His kingdom. Take every blessing you have experienced in this life and expand it exponentially and you have not even begun to conceive of what the kingdom of God is like. If you think this present life is too good to pass up, then as the songwriter said about the kingdom of God, “Be-Be-Be-Baby, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”. Amen.