Mark 8:34-38English Standard Version (ESV)
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Losing Your Life to Save it
MacArthur: This is not an invitation to health, or wealth, or fulfillment, or prosperity, or healing, or a boosted self-image, or trouble-free living. This is an invitation to self-denial, cross bearing and obedience. But this is the Lord’s invitation and this is the one that we must give if we would be faithful.
Peter had just declared Jesus to be the Messiah - but they were picturing a conquering King, not a suffering Servant.
It is human nature to want the blessing, to want the Kingdom. But God requires the cross. There can be no kingdom without a sacrifice for sin.
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
It means self-denial. Giving up all our own pursuits, ambitions, dreams, goals and replacing them with His will for our lives. Realizing that we are completely incapable of saving ourselves, and relying fully on God for our salvation. Realizing the depths of our unworthiness contrasted to the magnificence of God's glory and holiness.
It means being willing to bear a cross. To recognize that this gift of eternal life is truly worth giving up everything to the point of death. Obviously, not every believer will endure suffering to this degree, but there will be suffering of some point along the way - rejection from people we care about, job loss due to a moral stance you have to take, or something else along the way. We are going to be in a hostile world until Christ returns to set up His Kingdom. Thankfully, when that time comes (and sometimes not even a minute before!), we receive grace for that moment. And Christ does not ask us to do or bear anything more than what He bore Himself. Indeed, His cross was far heavier than ours could possibly be as He, the only perfect man, bore the sins of the world on His shoulders and took the punishment that was rightfully ours.
It also means loyal obedience. We obey with joy, love, and gratitude. We are not just hearers of the Word, but doers also. Our obedience does not save us, but it is proof that our faith is genuine.
Christians really do win by losing. Giving up your life to save your soul is a small price to pay for the eternal and infinite value we are gaining.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 9:1-8
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