Well, here it is: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25, NASB).
Yes, it’s a familiar verse. You’ve probably heard many sermons and Sunday School lessons preached and taught on these verses.
This proposition is declared by Jesus in all four Gospels and in two Gospels Jesus says it more than once (see Matthew 10:38-39; 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24: 14:27; 17:33; John 12:25).
The frequency with which Jesus used this proposition in His teachings make it seem pretty important, don’t you think? It’s definitely a proposition you want to apply to your life!
I bet you have already tried the self-denial thing many times and it just didn’t work out as planned. But before you start straining under the pressure of denying yourself and taking up your cross, let’s drill down in these verses a little more and see if there is a deeper meaning.
First, we would all probably agree that Jesus is defining discipleship in these two verses. Maybe we call it the meaning or cost of discipleship, but we certainly know that Jesus is talking about discipleship.
Next, most of our understanding of this proposition focuses on the first of the two verses, the self-denial part of it. Doesn’t sound like much fun, denying yourself all the time! We want to indulge ourselves, not deny ourselves!
And, if you’re like me, try as hard as you can, it’s just impossible to deny yourself all the time, or even some of the time!
In Luke 17 Jesus explained to His disciples how His second coming to earth will be unexpected. He warned them that those who try to hold on to this world will end up losing their life: “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33, NASB).
In stating this proposition, Jesus was teaching His disciples that their life in this world should be future-oriented, future-focused.
God is not only concerned about our personal relationship with Him, but also about the expression of this relationship in action and behavior that will ultimately manifest itself in eternal life.
It’s the eternity factor!
So, self-denial isn’t so much a specific action as it is a way of life. It’s the way of eternal life!
Jesus always related to people in terms of what the future held for them, what they could become in God’s Kingdom, not what they were in their present life.
God wants to prepare you for eternal life and He wants you to begin to act and behave now the way that you will live in His Kingdom eternally.
Because, what you are becoming in this present life is what you will surely be in eternity!
“For to the one who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29, NASB).
- The Present and Future Disciple, Part 1 – Inextricably Linked (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- The Present and Future Disciple, Part 3 – The Productivity Proposition (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- It’s Personal (stevesbiblemeditations.com)
- Leave Discipleship! (jcalexander.org)
- Intentional Discipleship: Count the Cost (artofthechristianninja.wordpress.com)