Mark 8:34-35 –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 wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. NKJV
How well we understand the concept that nothing in life is free. There is a price to be paid for anything worth having. For example, going back to school is an expensive endeavor in time and money. Most people aren’t willing to pay the cost of going back to school even when they are aware that it will get them closer to their dreams. But for those who are willing to pay the cost, they understand that there will be some events that they will have to say no to because of assignments or classes. They make the needed sacrifices, they pay the price with their finances and their time, and eventually they obtain the skills and the degree to pursue other avenues in life.
Then there is the case of a good marriage! There is no such thing as getting married and automatically have a good marriage. It’s work! And for some, the time and effort needed to make a marriage work isn’t worth it to them. So they end up divorced and broken. Even when one person is willing to pay the price, things will still go wrong and end badly, because two people made the commitment and both of them need to pay the cost to have a good marriage. That may look like swallowing your pride and saying that you are sorry. It may look like saying no to the friends who are single and still want to hang out on a regular basis. It could be as simple as saying good night to your boss, so you can hurry home and say hello to your spouse. Whatever you need to do in your marriage, it is going to cost you something else; but when you are committed to your spouse and your marriage, it is worth it!
Such is the case with our relationship with Jesus. He paid for our salvation, but there is a price to be paid. Not to obtain salvation, for it is free. But Jesus said that following Him requires a price from the follower!
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 wants 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 NKJV
Most people just want to be saved and know that they won’t go to hell. That may be alright for the average person, but for those of us who hold Him dear and want to follow Him all of our days, we must understand that there is a price to be paid.
Self is hard to deny. Jesus understands that, and yet He asks it of us. If we are going to follow after Him, we must deny ourselves. We may say yes to denying a whole lot of folks, but rarely do we consider denying ourselves. Have you ever tried to lose weight by denying yourself a favorite food? I bet that was hard! As a matter of fact, the weight loss business is making money hand over fist because we would rather do anything, take anything, drink anything that will keep us from saying no to what we want to eat! And still, with all of that, we often fail to lose the weight. I should know, I have been trying to lose the same pounds for a decade. I take it off, it comes back, and then I work to take it off again, and it comes back again. It started with 10 pounds, but when it returned it brought some more with it. Yikes! You get the drift!
When a fast is called, there is usually griping in the ranks. People don’t understand why they have to let go of their food for a period of time because a fast has been called. Especially when someone adds in the fact that you should not be on social media, or watch the news, or television, or any other denial. We just have a hard time telling ourselves no. After all, I’m grown and can do what I want to do!
Spiritually denying ourselves can take on many forms. Denying self could be a time of fasting and praying. Denying self could happen when you allow Him to keep you pure during your singleness. Denying self could happen in marriage when you honor your vows of clinging to one another. Denying yourself could include church attendance when you would rather stay home. Denying yourself could include giving to others when you could easily spend on yourself. There are so many ways to deny yourself, and when He asks it of us, we should give it!
Taking up our cross! Can I start by stating that this isn’t a sickness or a disease that you will have to battle. If it was, Jesus wouldn’t have healed so many people because in doing so, He didn’t allow them to carry their cross. Your cross could easily be that you are the only Christian at your school or job, and as difficult as it is, as lonely as the weekends can be, you are determined to live for Jesus! That cross isn’t for always! Or maybe you are ridiculed at work, ignored, and looked over during promotion because you refuse to drink with the gang, sleep with the manager, or lie for the team. That cross isn’t forever, but for now, you have to carry it for the cause of Christ.
Deciding to follow Jesus is the greatest decision a person can make. For me, it is synonymous with being saved. But for those of you who disagree, I am okay with that! Following Jesus says that where He leads, we will follow! If that pathway leads to few friends and lonely nights, I’ll just spend some more time with Him, but I refuse to compromise to be with others. Following Jesus may mean persecution on the job, in the neighborhood, in the family, or amongst friends, but it is what it is! Consider Him who gave up it all, that we might be saved!
What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him, the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”Mark 8:36-38 NKJV
Jesus asks the million dollar question when He asks, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Isn’t that the bottom line. If you are more concerned about having a man, or a woman, then you are about His call to holiness, how will that help you in the end? It won’t! How will compromising on your job, lying to get ahead, ignoring unrighteousness to obtain riches help you with eternity? It won’t! Self-denial, taking up your cross, and following Jesus is a price that we all have to pay. None of us can avoid it. In doing so, it appears that we are ashamed of Him and that’s a sad place to be. For if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father! Let’s determine today that we are all in and ready to pay the cost, for we have counted it, and find it doable! There is no shame in our game because we adore Him and have made up our minds that He is worth the cost! Wonderful Jesus!