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. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Mark 8:34-37
I love that Jesus called the crowd to come up close to Him. Jesus wanted everyone – those who knew Him personally and followed Him in some very real and regular ways, as well as every person who seemed to be looking in Jesus’ direction and was within earshot of His speaking – to come close, gather right up near Him and listen closely.
Imagine you were in the crowd that day. Imagine the thrill of being invited to gather in close – to be called to come right up near this amazing, healing, preaching, demon-conquering, food-multiplying, life-restoring, growing-in-fame, maybe-the-Messiah Rabbi! Jesus had something important and wonderful to tell us. We knew His words would bless us and change our lives.
But, this? This didn’t sound like blessing. This didn’t sound like the kind of life change I had in mind. Deny myself? Take up my cross? Lose my life? That’s what following Jesus means? Lose my soul if I don’t do this? I think Jesus has lost His mind!
Then I see His eyes. I hear His heart. His heart for me – not wanting me to lose my soul. Not wanting me to be lost and empty because of what I hold onto in this life. Jesus is speaking to my very soul about how to save my soul. Jesus is wanting, with everything in Him – and oh, there is so much within Him – for me to live my fullest, freest, most purposeful and powerful life possible. But it comes at a cost. An unexpectedly deep and tangible cost. Is it worth it?
And the love of Jesus opens my ears. Opens my heart. I hear and understand. Losing my life for Jesus – who gave up His life for me – and losing my life to make His gospel known, is the most beautiful, life-transforming, soul-saving life I could ever know. So, I choose to:
Deny myself. Deny my selfishness. Deny my self-centeredness. Deny my self-focus, and live focused on Jesus and loving Him and loving others.
Take up my cross and follow Jesus. Take up my cross – remembering the total submission to His Father’s will and His outrageous love that moved Jesus to die for me, for the forgiveness of my sins. Take up my cross – knowing that there will be days and seasons of pain, frustration, rejection and suffering that come with following Jesus. Take up my cross – yielding to my God completely, trusting His goodness always, being convinced fully of His eternal victory and filled with the love, peace and hope Jesus gives me right in the midst of the mess. Jesus is with me. He knows the weight of my cross. And He knows the immeasurable, incalculable joy that I will know fully as I follow Him right into eternity and lay my cross down at His beautiful feet forever.
Lose my life. Lose my life for Jesus to become His child, His ambassador, His follower, His friend. Lose my life for Jesus and be given the most powerful, purpose-filled life imaginable – to declare the gospel of Jesus who forgives and saves the lives of all who believe and follow.
Is it worth it? Yes! It is ab-soul-utely worth it!