Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26 NIV)
Having outlined His own future in verse 22, the Lord invited the disciples to follow Him. This would mean denying themselves and taking up their cross daily. Anyone who intends to come along side Jesus has to let Him lead. Nothing material can compensate for the loss of a walk with Jesus—Jesus’ disciples are not to use their lives on earth merely to please themselves; they should spend their lives serving God and others. In efforts to focus on acquiring all the worldly things, the true purpose of life is missed. What good would that do when we would only have it for a short while, then leave it forever. It would be an insane bargain! Serve Him with boldness!! And, don’t miss the excitement of His coming back….how could that compare with anything this world could possibly say to us to cause us embarrassment?!
To follow Him we must lay down our devotions to this world and live for Christ and His mission. The fact that He mentioned that we need to take up our cross tells us that we can expect painful situations every day because of our allegiance to Christ. To take up the cross means to deliberately choose the kind of life that He lived. The life He lived involved this and more:
But, it also involves laying hold of life that is life indeed! It means finding at last the reason for our existence. And it means eternal reward. Do we think of our relationship with God primarily in terms of, what’s in it for us, or in terms of what we can do for Him? Am I willing to deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow Him? Willingly renounce any so called right to plan or choose and to recognize His Lordship in every area of life? Surrendering to God’s will does not mean you lose. It means you win. God’s will is always best, even when we cannot imagine how!
This life of abandonment is genuine living and brings profound spiritual pleasure. It has a joy, a holy carefreeness, and a deep inward satisfaction that defies description.
It is possible for believers to temporarily cower in fear around unbelievers and act “ashamed” of Jesus as Peter did in his denials of Christ. Hurt people hurt people and will often try to embarrass someone for the stand they take in an attempt to make themselves feel better.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” -Jim Elliot
Deny myself… oh what a challenge for us at times, Lord, but even moreso when we take our eyes off of Jesus and what He’s done for us. This I know Lord… when I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and lose my life for His sake, I am filled with such peace and contentment that can only come from Christ! God, help us to be “all in” in our relationship with You – we can’t have one foot in the world and still fully follow You. Help us to boldly live for You, knowing that it may cost us temporary comfort, but oh what joy for such an eternal reward! In Jesus name, Amen.