Daily Devotion – Day 360
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
Today we will wrap our current series. This does not mean, however, that we are done talking about the issues we have raised. We still have important aspects of the topic to cover. But I wish to treat those matters under a different title starting tomorrow. This means the next series will be a natural progression of the present series. It will help us delve deeper into why the typical Christian finds it impossible to break with sin once and for all. The hope is that the insights gained from the discussion will help Christians view themselves differently and respond better to Jesus’ call.
Today’s presentation will serve as a bridge that will usher us into the next series. Before we discuss the opening passage, read it one more time, and to the best of your knowledge respond to the following prompts. You will not be graded, so no worries: a) Could you say that you have denied yourself, taken up your cross and followed Jesus in obedience to what He said? b) Do you believe that what Jesus said in the passage is relevant and applicable today?
In the passage, Jesus is talking about issues that pertain to eternal salvation. If we wish to come after Jesus, He demands that we deny ourselves and take up our cross. Denying the self implies dying to one’s former self, the self that existed before we encountered Jesus for salvation. Jesus wants to give us a new life, but He needs us to let go our old self. This requires that we die to our old self, the self that will not submit to the law of God. Jesus will not force new life on us. He will not add His gift of a new life to our old life, either. There can be one life at a time; either the old or the new, but not both. This is what Jesus is indicating when He says, “whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark8:35).
If we hold on to our old life and refuse to deny it, we will not have life (eternal). However, if we bid farewell to the old self for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the Gospel, then we will have life. We must lose something to gain something. This is where a lot of people struggle. They want to enjoy the best of both worlds: Jesus (salvation) in one hand and the pleasures of sin (the old self) in the other hand. But, according to Jesus, if we do that we will not have life. Denying the self is the point at which we die to sin and live for Christ alone. It is not possible to die to sin unless one first denies the self.
Unfortunately, most Christians assume they can overcome sin without first denying the self. They treat what Jesus said in Mark 8:34-35 as something trivial, supposing that the Cross of Christ has taken care of that on their behalf. But the truth is, self-denial is not optional for Christians; Jesus demands it. The believers in the New Testament understood this and the Apostles wrote about it. Take, for example, what Paul said, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians5:24). Paul is writing to Christians like us. He says those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh. He did not say Christians would crucify their flesh some time in the future. In fact, crucifying the flesh is a a key sign that one belongs to Christ.
Note also that Paul did not say Jesus would crucify our flesh for us. Crucifying our flesh is not part of Jesus’ job description. He provides all the help we need, but we are the ones who must decide if we will crucify our flesh or hide behind the Cross and make excuses. What Paul said confirms the point Jesus was making in our opening Scripture. Many Christians continue to sin because they have skipped the step of crucifying their flesh (denying the self). They are waiting for Jesus to do that for them, while Jesus is waiting for them to obey Him.
We will explain this point further when we begin the new series tomorrow, God willing. May the Lord keep you and be gracious unto you. Amen.
For further study: Matthew16:21-28