Recently we heard a sermon from Matthew (16:24-27 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.) A passage that is infinitely familiar and has been quoted and misquoted often. This pastor taught this , in such a way , to make me think, and to really try to understand.
He told us to remember the meaning that was meant when this passage was written, in the original languages. Much of its import, and urgency has been lost with our modern usage of language. Sometimes familiarity does breed contempt.
What this pastor asked us to realize was ,that the above passage is a series of steps for the believer to follow.
From Desire ( whoever wants to be my disciple) ,
to Denial (must deny themselves),
to Death ( and take up their cross) ,
to Devotion ( and follow me),
to Destiny (What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.)
Our Desire must be to accept Christ as our savior, and then we must Deny our selfish living, our pride, our will, and chose willingly to Die to our self and with utmost Devotion, chose to follow Him.
He challenged us to remember that “for the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross”. It was a form of a cruel death, but He chose to go through that so that we could have eternal life, I could have eternal life. He did it to glorify the Father. He did it so that , He could go and prepare a place for us, for me, to live with Him forever.
I need to be willing to let my will go and be subject to Another’s. I need to let my personal ambition, my job, my desire to live somewhere, live a certain way, go and be willing to accept what He has planned for me.
I need to be willing to accept that in the same way, Christ went towards His literal death, there may be a literal death in my future (but whoever loses their life for Me will find it) in the service of the Maker. Will I still be willing, knowing all this?
Our family is now in the midst of a very long season of sorrow and weeping. All the plans we had so far have come to naught. Everything we set our hope on has crumbled away. At this time I can’t see the end. But I’m choosing to trust that Joy will come after mourning, that there will be a crown of beauty after the ashes we’re in . But, right now , the sorrow seems unending, the weeping hasn’t ended, and I don’t know what we are doing. Many people have prayed over us, and still continue to do so, that we will know that God is in control, that He is sovereign, that all things will work together for good. Sometimes I believe it. Sometimes I need others to continue to remind me of His truth.
He remains true in spite of my sorrow, my doubt, my unbelief, my fear, my worry, my grief. His words cannot be changed. He will walk beside me. He will never forsake me. He will be with me through the waters and the fire and I will not be harmed (I’ll still go through it, I can’t escape from it). He sees my tears and collects them. He weeps when I weep, even though He knows How He’ll bring good out of it.
And so, I’ll try. I’ll continue to walk with Him, I’ll continue to read His word. I’ll remember how He rescued me in the past. I’ll try not to pull away from Him. I will continue to die to my self, and look forward to the only place where there’ll be no tears, no sorrow, and no sin. I’ll look forward to my eternal home, and know that He who is with me, is greater than He who is in the world.
May I challenge you as well? Will you die to yourself today, and live for Him?