then Jesus told his disciples, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. for what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? or what shall a man give in return for his soul? [matthew 16:24-26]
this message is so clear here. Jesus, already having chosen his own, already knowing who the Father had given to him, already knowing they would betray him, abandon him, deny him, puts out a call to action. it’s either you or me, he told them. death or life. the world or your soul. your flesh or the Spirit. you cannot have both. you cannot serve two masters.
friends, the word of God is living and active. this is not only something Jesus said to his disciples thousands of years ago. this is a call to action he lays out before us today. for you and i to deny ourselves, take up our cross, crucify our fleshly desires and privileges along with him, be raised to new life with him, so that in the salvation of our souls, we might walk with him in newness of life. this should make us dance and sing! so many people look at christianity as a list of rules that equals no happiness, so they reject it. they don’t understand the pure satisfaction in Jesus Christ. but friends, do we? are we living that way? are we selling all we have to buy the field with the hidden treasure? (matt 13:44)
i don’t think we need to go over all the luxuries of western culture. ideologies, traditions, positions, relationships, possessions. we all know them. i just want us to sit and listen. sit with the Lord in all his glory, and ask him to show us. ask him as we open his word. show us when we talk to other believers. show us what pales in comparison to him that we are clinging to. what part of our old nature are we desperate to hold onto, to try to hide or suppress so that we avoid being convicted of it? in what areas are we seeking to do what is permissible, instead of what is radical?
Jesus told his disciples there is no life in the middle. we cannot have one foot in the camp of God and one foot in the camp of the world. so let us, by faith, through the gift of God’s endless grace, choose this day whom you will serve. [joshua 24:15]
Lord, you alone can satisfy my soul. give me the grace to deny myself, take up my cross and follow you. you are all i need. help my unbelief. amen.
whom have i in heaven but you?
and there is nothing on earth that i desire besides you.
my flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
for behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
but for me it is good to be near God;
i have made the Lord God my refuge,
that i may tell of all your works.