Discipleship and the Columbia House Record Club

Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?  – Matthew 16:24-26

When I was about 8 years old I saw an advertisement in a magazine for the Columbia House Record Club. The ad said that I could order 13 albums for just one dollar. Holy Cow! What a deal. They even had the Partridge Family’s Greatest Hits. What’s not to like? So, without telling my parents, I placed my order. And sure enough, in just a few weeks my new albums arrived. I was in heaven.

However, I didn’t read the fine print. Heck, I could barely read at all at that age. I missed the part that said that I was now obligated to buy a dozen albums in the next year at full price. In fact, unless I told them otherwise they would simply send me the album of the month and bill me. And much to my chagrin, they did! I suddenly had albums I didn’t want that cost money I didn’t have.

Some of us were “sold” the Gospel in a similar way. We were told that if we just pray a certain prayer and ask Jesus into our hearts we’ll get a free pass into heaven. What a deal. What’s not to like? While God’s love and forgiveness are indeed free gifts of God’s grace, being a disciple is costly. Discipleship, learning from Jesus and following Jesus daily, is where the richness of abundant life is experienced.

We cannot live self-focused, consumer-driven, running-like-our-hair-is-on-fire lives and expect to experience the kind of rich, meaningful life that we desire. As Jesus said, discipleship requires surrender and self-sacrifice. It calls us to self-reflection and honest confession. Jesus wants our whole life, not just our Sunday mornings. And in return we receive real life rather than the cheap imitation that our culture encourages us to pursue. It really is in losing ourselves that we ultimately find our true selves.

Don’t settle for a Christianity that just promises heaven after you die. Embrace the faith that Jesus taught, a faith that offers fullness of life now and forever.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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