34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 9 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
When was the last time you heard someone (apart from at church) advising you to deny yourself? I recently heard a car ad on the radio informing me that my desire for this particular car was “the universe telling me” that I should buy one. Self-denial is not a popular concept in our culture. You’ve probably heard the ad jingle, “Do what you want to do, be what you want to be, yeah”. This is the kind of advice we are regularly hearing in the media.
But here, Jesus is telling us the secret to being His disciples, and it’s quite a different way. He tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Of course, Jesus Himself is our prime example in this. He denied His place in heaven with the Father (ultimate power and privilege) and humbled Himself to come as a servant to die on the cross. And He is asking me to follow His example.
On the surface, this may not sound that appealing, but here’s where my “eternal thinking” needs to kick in. If I were to “gain the whole world” (have all the money, success, power and position that my heart could desire) this would be nothing compared to the eternal rewards that come from denying my self-focus and following Jesus.
Unfortunately, this is not something that I can do once and be done with it. We are all swimming against the tide of self-centredness and living in a self-focused culture. Denying ourselves is not going to come easy.
I’m so grateful that God’s mercy and grace helps me in my selfishness and my weakness, and that He is constantly calling me to a higher place without fear or condemnation for my failings. Today, once again, I choose His way above my way.
Written by Shelley Witt