“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)
What does it mean to do the three things that Jesus told us we needed to do if we were to come after Him?
- Deny yourself
In an everyday walk with Jesus, we need to live in a denial of our sinful natures. It is easy to be enticed by a lifestyle of luxury, or of excitement, or of entertainment, or just of immediate gratification. None of these lifestyles will save your soul. They come after you to pull your attention away from Jesus. How easy it is to look around and compare the lifestyles of celebrities and neighbours! How difficult it is to deny ourselves the light and momentary pleasures of earth, in view of eternity.
Is there something that could be denied, in order to free more time, or money, or attention to the things of God? There are countless things that crowd our lives today, and it is time for the church to begin to deny ourselves, and in so doing, draw nearer to eternity and farther from the things of the world.
- Take up your cross
If denying yourself was hard, dying is even harder. It sounds like the difference between fasting from food, and giving away all your food to someone else, so that when you want to eat, you don’t even have food available. I guess this is like cutting off your own escape route. When you follow Jesus, whole heartedly, no-holds-barred, in essence you can’t unless you cut your bonds to everything else. I think it’s very extreme. But that’s Jesus. God doesn’t want anything less than our whole hearts, our whole lives, our whole bodies. It is inexcusable to love Jesus with anything less. When we deny ourselves and choose to live or die for Jesus and nothing else, we are going to have a life that is completely different from the lives of the people around us. That’s hard. That’s radical. I think it’s also a process. God brings up areas in our lives that are not His, and we have to surrender them and cut them off.
- Follow me
After cutting off all our escape routes, we walk with Jesus day by day towards our own death. Jesus walked towards His death with eyes open, and heart ready. He gave Himself away totally and completely to show the love of God to everyone He met. He walked out the Kingdom of God, healing, saving, teaching, and setting people free. May I walk behind Him, wherever He leads me. No turning back, no turning back.