“Then he said to the crowd, If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” (Luke 9:23-25, NLT).
If you think this well-known saying of Jesus means you should quit being selfish or even start hating yourself, then you are completely missing the point of this teaching.
Jesus is talking about a shift in lifestyle, not getting rid of a flaw in your personality!
Jesus is saying that to be His follower your life must change from “it’s all about me” to “it’s all about Him.”
That’s a big deal for most of us because as human beings we are wired for self-preservation and self-actualization.
We want to be our own boss, make our own plans, and do things our own way. But Jesus says He’s the boss, He makes the plans, and we do things His way.
By denying yourself, you cease to make your own will the object of life and make God’s will the focus of your life.
Oswald Chambers explains it best. He paraphrases this saying like this: “If you would be My disciple, give up your right to yourself to Me.”
The moral ground on which you form a relationship with God is only through Jesus, His Son, and not your own will or personality. So, the sacrifice of the right to yourself represents a change in the direction of your life that must be total and absolute.
Self-will must be put to death so that God’s will is manifested in you.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2, NLT).