“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me”. (Mark 8:34)
Our culture is very ‘self-focused’.
We are encouraged to ‘look out for #1’, to ‘get what you have coming to you’, to ‘stand up for yourself’.
Our culture, our world says ‘This is ‘Living’!
In fact, even in churches,’self’ has become dominant.
We look for churches that make us feel good…we demand that teachers teach things that make us feel comfortable…we want the worship music to make us feel all warm and toasty.
Even from some pulpits, we hear ‘self’ as #1.
We’ve taken Jesus’ words in the conversation with the religious leader and turned it around:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-39)
We’ve taken that…Love God, Love Your Neighbor…the clear focus of Jesus’ words, and made them subordinate to ‘as yourself’–the assumption of what we normally do (without prompting).
But we just can’t do that.
If we are going to ‘follow Jesus’, we need to live as He’s called us to live, and clearly, that means (among other things) to ‘self-sacrifice’.
Mark 8:34-35: “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[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Mark 9: 33-35: “They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 10: 42-45: “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here is the bottom line:
Following Jesus–becoming a Christian…is not just about what you do with your Sunday mornings, nor is it only about ‘not doing’ certain things that are ‘outside the lines’ of Scriptural commands and principles. Following Jesus also means that we LIVE for Him, by allowing Him to make us more like Himself…and one of the keys to that is to embrace Self-Sacrificial love!
THAT is one key to ‘Life to the Full’ that Jesus promised (John 10:10)
It shows up in many ways–small and large, and it is never ‘easy’, but it is absolutely crucial for a person who wants to really ‘worship’ Jesus as Savior and Lord!
Truthfully, I ‘get’ that this world is selfish…and it’s not going to change.
However, as Believers in Jesus, and members of His body–the Church–we need to live differently.
We need to give up ‘self’ and focus on Loving God, and Loving our Neighbor.
For the Believer, THIS is ‘living’!