“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ ” Mark 8:34-35
There are some people out there that will tell you that you can give your life to Jesus and then go and live your life the way you want to. But that’s not what I hear Jesus saying in our focus text today; and this isn’t the only passage in scripture that carries this message. Friends, Jesus makes it very clear that the choice to follow him contains within it the decision to be willing to set aside whatever personal plans we’ve made, all our personal preferences in life, all our likes and dislikes and then to be willing to live our lives the way Jesus calls us to.
That’s what Jesus meant when he said that we must deny ourselves. It doesn’t mean that everything you love will be taken from you. But it does mean that you must love Jesus to the degree that you would be willing to lose everyone and everything you have in this world rather than lose him.
Luke 14:26-27 records Jesus saying it this way, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The greek word translated “hate” literally means, “to love less,” which supports the idea that Jesus is not asking us to empty our lives of all that’s precious to us. Instead, he’s telling us that he needs to be the most precious of all that’s in our lives.
Next Jesus tells us that we must “take up our cross.” The way some people use this phrase you’d get the idea that Jesus is just talking about being willing to live with personal vexations and irritations. But that’s not what Jesus is talking about. When a person takes up their cross they’re making their final walk to their execution. Jesus was saying that those that follow him need to be willing to die for him and the gospel.
The point isn’t so much about what how much your relationship with Jesus will require from you. Rather, it’s defining how important Jesus needs to be to you. Jesus was willing to give up everything to redeem you? Are you willing to give up everything to get and to keep him?