Death is painful. It’s unnatural and excruciating to be separated from the ones that we love. The loss of life sobers each one of us as we realize its physical finality. We’re also brutally reminded of our own pending deaths. One day the air that we mindlessly breathe will be found in short supply. Yet we know that death brings with it a sense of freedom. When we die, we will be physically free from the struggles and pain of this world depending on our readiness to enter the next.
In Luke 9:23-27, Jesus says these famous words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of he holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
- Jesus calls his followers to deny themselves and make a commitment that will result in death. He’s clearly not messing around. Anyone who desires to follow him must be selfless and willing to risk it all, a reckless abandonment for the very person they claim to love. His love compels priority and perseverance. There’s no half-hearted followers of Jesus. They must be willing to lose their lives, their fortunes, their friendships, their families, their reputations, their comfort, their pride, their preferences, their dreams, their desires, their personal passions, their expectations, and the list goes on. Only in laying it all on the line will His followers be able to serve Christ first and foremost. While they may not actually lose all other things, it is important that their hearts are not tethered to anything but Christ. Christ does not deny His people anything that is necessary for them to have, and often He even allows them to keep that which is considered only to be a good thing rather than treasured as an ultimate thing. He requires their love and attention as a husband jealously deserves and desires the love and commitment of His wife.
The very state of our souls depends on what we’re seeking to save and what we’re willing to lose. Those who live to save themselves and protect their pride, possessions, passions, and the myriad of things listed above will actually lose their greatest possession, their souls. However, those who are willing to die to themselves and commit their hearts to Christ will save the very life of which they seek. It is in losing that we win. The paradox seems ridiculous, but we find the greatest example of this self-denial and undying commitment in the sacrifice of Christ for His Bride.
May we say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8)… For, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).”
Just as physical death brings physical freedom, so will spiritually dying to ourselves bring the spiritual freedom and eternal life that we long to have. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…” (Jn. 14:6) That which we seek cannot be found by living for ourselves and clinging tight to the lives that we live. May we find the Way, the Truth, and the Life that we seek by denying ourselves and taking up our crosses. As we die to self and put our trust in Jesus Christ, we find life in the very One who created us. In what ways has God been calling you to die to yourself?
Blessings in Christ, Gabe