23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his [a]life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
I'm sure many or most of us have heard a lot about these verses. I know I have. Interesting, though, that what struck me today in verse 23 was the word "daily". Maybe because a lot of emphasis is placed on "deny himself" or "take up his cross" or "follow Me"... daily.
Following Jesus, living in God's will, is not something you choose once and then never have to think about again. You keep having to make choices. "...deny himself, and take up his cross daily". Just as we have to eat and drink each day, get dressed each day (okay, most days), get our work done each day, we choose to deny our own will and follow the will of God daily.
MacArthur sermon: The Gospel in Perspective
So Jesus says, here's the principle, if you want to come after Me you deny yourself. You say I no longer will live for my own bodily lusts, I no longer will live for the things I can see, I no longer will live for my own self-glorification. And I am willing to deny myself and if need be I will even give my life in death on a cross and I commit myself to follow obediently. That's the gospel of Jesus. That's what He's calling for. It's an attitude of penitence, repentance, brokenness, contrition, poverty of spirit, sense of your own bankruptcy, mourning, meek, sorrowful over your sin. It's the level of desperation that beats on the chest and says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." That says, "In my flesh is no good thing." This is the heart of Jesus' message and if a sinner is going to come after Jesus into the Kingdom, it's going to be in an absolute and total abandonment of himself.
Why is it so hard to become a Christian? Let's go back to our text. It's hard because you have to deny yourself, that's what makes it hard. Self-denial to the degree of cross bearing, to the degree of submissive obedience to Christ as Lord. That is hard. That goes against the grain of everything human. As I said earlier, everything in the world...the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life...that's what dominates us. Look at the world around you. What makes people do what they do? It all comes from inside of them. It's the desire to have all their passions fulfilled. It's the desire to have all their visions realized. They see a more beautiful this or a more beautiful that, or a fancier this, or a fancier that and they want it. They're driven by these passions and, of course, the third one and the dominating one is the longing for honor, acceptance, prestige, prominence, power, influence, affection, respect, pride. That's...that's people's lives. That's...that's the way they live. That is their world and that's why Jesus said if you could get all the world delivered to you on those terms, everything you lust for, everything you long for, everything you see and everything you desire for your own self-glory, if you had it all it would be a bad bargain if you lost your soul. That's why in verse 24 He says, "If you're going to save your life, you have to lose it. If you're going to lose your life, you're going to find it, you're going to save it so you've got to give up everything you are."
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 9:27-36.
It IS hard to become a Christian. I really do think Christianity has become very watered down in our culture. I don't think people are always receiving the full gospel message when they "ask Jesus into their heart" and are mistakenly thinking they're saved, when they're really not.
Denying ourselves. Daily. Recognizing our utter depravity. Turning 180 degrees away from sin, and choosing to become a slave to Christ, by faith, by His grace. That's not an easy sell.
And yet, anything less is not the gospel and saves no one.
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