“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my safe will save it.”Luke 9:23-24
It is a well known paradox in Christianity that in order to save our lives, we must first lose them. It is a necessity of self-denial for those who chose to follow him…the early disciples did this literally. They gave up everything, family, friends, their earthly belonging and possessions’; all to follow Christ. But it is vital to our understanding of Christianity both past and present; this is the call for all who claim the name of Christ: Deny yourself. Take up your cross each day. Lose your life if you want to save it! The early disciples turned their lives upside down because they believed. They believed in a man who was Humble, God Fearing, and called himself The Messiah.
Jesus knew what lay ahead for him. He knew is time on this earth was short and precious, so he made the most of that time. He equipped those around him with the knowledge of the coming kingdom of God. He knew that they would soon be the pillars of the early church, spreading his word and preaching Jesus is Lord to all the nations. He knew that they would take up this mantel willingly. He saw their futures and their fates. He knew the life of trial and tribulation his disciples would live after his death on the cross. He was acutely aware that his disciples would also also lose their lives for the sake that they would enter the Kingdom of Heaven and once again take up discipleship with Jesus.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”Philippians 2:3-4 NIV
The disciples did this without question but, this is an extremely countercultural statement in our modern world that is naturally saturated with self-absorption. Our culture advises: “do what’s best for you.” But Jesus’ vision for our good and his glory requires us, at least temporarily, to deny ourselves of various comforts for the sake of faithfully following him. In that same chapter in Philippians 2:12-13 Jesus teaches “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Self-denial should be motivated by a supreme love for God and others, the very heartbeat of what it means to be a Christian. Not only must Christians be willing to lose earthly comforts, but we are to pick up our crosses “daily and follow [him]” (Luke 9:23)
Thankfully, we serve a God who works in supernatural ways to make the impossible possible. We serve the God who miraculously spoke our vast universe into existence (Genesis 1, Hebrews 11:3). Grasping the magnitude of God’s supernatural power and his faithfulness to completely fulfill his promises gives us courage to heed Jesus’ hard words in Luke 9:23-24. With God’s help, we can joyfully deny ourselves and bear our crosses daily. This is a truly supernatural view of self-denial, suffering, and loss.
Jesus’ death and resurrection embody the radical call of self-denial and suffering (Luke 9:23) while illustrating the gospel pattern of loss before gain (Luke 9:24). The cross precedes the crown, and this is the heart of the bewildering statement that, life comes through death. The truth of the gospel promises us life through Jesus’ own death. No matter what earthly lsses we may experience for his sake – whether we are a missionary, pastor, priest, or believer – our lives will ultimately be saved for all of eternity (Romans 8:16-17, 35-39). Our faithful sacrifices for Christ will not go unrewarded, eternity is waiting for those who bear the cross of Christ!
Do you find it difficult to share your testimony? Why or why not? It is wholly situational… with people I don’t know it is not difficult at all to share my testimony… BUT with my family and those close it me it is harder. My past habits make me fearful that they don’t truly feel my dedication and devotion. I want to testify but my pattern in the past was to do this with other belief systems and then cycle through them moving from one to another. I am all in this time and have even had an immersion baptism.
Be Real: Who or what do your words most represent? My words represent Jesus and my beliefs. They are my declaration and commitment to him. They represent my Christianity and my story going forward. The word breathed life into me and my words will glorify the life that was given up for me.
Moving Forward, what can you say that focuses more on the “after Christ” portion of your testimony than the “before Christ” portion? I can refrain from always brining up my past sins with regards to my mental illness. I can stop trying to find validation for my past hurts, and justifying past versions of myself. My story doesn’t define me, my beliefs do. Jesus bore my cross and died upon it to allow me to be freed from my past self.