(originally posted 10/13/2015 at littlegirlriseup.blogspot.com)
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)
What does it mean to deny ourselves? It means our whole life is to be lived for Christ and not ourselves. This is almost a notion of insanity in today’s culture. We are so brainwashed into believing that we “deserve” happiness and that our lives are meant to be lived for our own personal pleasure or success, that what Jesus actually said about how we are to live our lives seems almost incomprehensible to us. At one time I remember thinking how boring and unbearable my life would be if it revolved around God. I liked my life, I liked doing what I wanted to do, what I thought was fun, what I enjoyed, I had my own plans, my own interests, dreams and goals. Jesus was my Savior, but my life was mine to live however I pleased. For a long time I believed in Jesus, that He is the Son of God and that He died for my sins and rose from the dead. I “played” Christian for a long time. You see, I had no problem with Jesus being my Savior, the problem for me was letting go of my life and letting Him be Lord of it.
Jesus was explicitly clear as to how those who called on His Name were to live:
- We are to follow His commands
—“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21)
—“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23)
—“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love,” (John 15:10)
- We are to let go of our lives in this world and live for Him.
—“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)
—“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Matt 16:25)
Over and over scripture testifies that those who desire to follow Jesus, must live for Jesus and only Jesus. Only then will we find true fulfillment of life. Because only then will we be living our life the way it was meant to be lived. The sole reason God created human beings was to have a relationship with them. The purpose of all existence, the universe and creation itself, is for God to have an eternal relationship with those who love Him. That’s it. Seriously, wrap your brain around that.
The Gospel of Luke even records Jesus’ command to let go of your life twice. The second time Jesus says, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33). What happened to Lot’s wife? She looked back at the world with longing. She was torn between leaving sinful Sodom or staying there and keeping her way of life. She was afraid that moving forward with God in faith wouldn’t be as pleasurable as keeping her lifestyle in Sodom, even though it was about to be destroyed.
How many of us are looking back?
—“Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62).
How many of us still desire to be friends with the world?
—“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4).
How many of us are not being faithful in the seemingly “little” things that “creep and worm” (2 Tim 3:6) their way into our homes?
—“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10)
There is a reason Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:14). So few find it because so few are willing to really, truly let go of this world and the selfish pursuits and pleasures that keep us shackled to it. The Gospel of Luke records Jesus explaining even further, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24). So few are not able because when it comes right down to it, we still love ourselves more than we love God.