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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. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?[1]

Source: Mark 8:34-37

Why this is important: There is a realization I need to come to daily and it is a tough one. I am not in control. I am not in the driver’s seat, and I really like the control that comes by driving. Having acted on letting Jesus be in control yesterday and not today isn’t very helpful. Every day I must know it and live it.

God is God. God has given over control of everything to Jesus. I am to be a faithful servant, finding out what Jesus wants me to do and then doing it.

God has a goal for me. I may not know what God’s goal for me is for a year from now. That is a problem because I love to plan. I can know for today, for right now. If nothing else, I can talk with God (aka pray) and thank him for the long list of things he is doing for me, my family and my country.

  • I can find out how Jesus wants me to love my boss.
  • We are in a meeting, and he is droning on about the same old same old.
  • What does love look like in that meeting?

There is a long list of people I will interact with today. Jesus is in the drivers seat. What should I do to support his message of love? While it became a little overused in some circles, it still is all about “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus had called these men to follow Him, and they knew that whatever happened to Him would happen to them. If there was a cross in His future, there would be one in their future as well. That would be reason enough to disagree with Him!

  • In spite of their devotion to Him, the disciples were still ignorant of the true relationship between the cross and the crown.
  • They were following Satan’s philosophy (glory without suffering) instead of God’s philosophy (suffering transformed into glory).
  • Which philosophy you accept will determine how you live and how you serve.

Jesus summoned the people and taught them what He taught His own disciples: there is a price to pay for true discipleship. He knew that the crowds were following Him only because of the miracles, and that most of the people were unwilling to pay the price to become true disciples.

Jesus laid down three conditions for true discipleship: (1) we must surrender ourselves completely to Him; (2) we must identify with Him in suffering and death; and (3) we must follow Him obediently, wherever He leads. If we live for ourselves, we will lose ourselves, but if we lose ourselves for His sake and the Gospel’s, we will find ourselves.

Denying self is not the same as self-denial. We practice self-denial when, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we deny self when we surrender ourselves to the Messiah Jesus and determine to obey His will. This once-for-all dedication is followed by a daily “dying to self” as we take up the cross and follow Him. From the human point of view, we are losing ourselves, but from the divine perspective, we are finding ourselves. When we live for the Master Jesus, we become more like Him, and this brings out our own unique individuality.

But note the motivation for true discipleship: “for My sake and the Gospel’s” (Mark 8:35). To lose yourself is not an act of desperation; it is an act of devotion. But we do not stop there: personal devotion should lead to practical duty, the sharing of the Gospel with a lost world. “For My sake” could lead to selfish religious isolationism, so it must be balanced with “and the Gospel’s.” Because we live for Him, we live for others.[2]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 8:34–37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 140). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.