Then Jesus said to his disciples, “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 will find it.”
By nature, we tend to think first of ourselves. Selfishness is not a learned behavior; we are born this way (thank you, Adam and Eve!). Dying to self and thinking of others first is a learned behavior. For example, your parents had to teach you to share. The worldly view teaches us to watch out for “number one”. Jesus came to serve, not to be served.
Jesus’ command to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him is difficult but the rewards during this lifetime and for all of eternity cannot be measured. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The decision to give ourselves to others is a daily choice, like picking up our cross.
Have you noticed it is easy to follow Jesus when life is going smoothly? Following Jesus is not always easy. Jesus promised His followers that they would face trials and that following Him would require sacrifices. True discipleship requires a commitment to fully surrender your whole life (die to self) on a daily basis to do His will. This is only possible when you are controlled and filled by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is available 24/7 to all who trust Jesus. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
James, Jesus’ half-brother, also taught about facing trials. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James continued his teaching in verse 12 stating, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” This scripture is a source of encouragement to all followers of Jesus. Although there are costs to following Jesus, the benefits are far greater.
Thought for the Day: Are you taking up your cross daily? Is your decision to follow Jesus costing you anything? Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends or being alienated by your family? Are you willing to lose your job or your reputation as the price for being a Jesus follower? Jesus said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). If following Jesus is not costing you anything, are you really following Jesus or are you just a “fan” of Jesus?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, by the power of your Holy Spirit that lives in me, help me to live each day by faith and in obedience to you knowing that You are with me at all times. Use the trials in my life to grow me spiritually and to trust You more. Father, help me to live out the truth of Your word with grace and love regardless of the cost, knowing that ultimately You will be glorified by my thoughts, words, and actions. Amen.