Jesus said, “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?” – Mark 8:34-36 (ESV)
Jesus confronts each of our lives with a call to follow him. We can gain everything the world has to offer, but if we do not have him then we are eternally lost, left with nothing but pain and regret. Jesus offers us something better—joy unending, but the cost is great: Jesus demands our everything.
This is what faith is: Not simply a belief in true things about Jesus, but also a trust that says to him, “Take my life, my all.”
This is why in addition to “follow me,” Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. To deny self is to say, “I lay aside the passing pleasures that my heart chases after to take up the eternal joys that only you give.” To take up our cross is to say, “I no longer count my life my own. I am dead to the ways of sin and to my selfish desires. You, Lord, tell me where to go.”
Lest we think this demand is too great, we must remember that our lives already belong to God. He is our creator and the sovereign King of everything. We all one day will bow, but will we do it joyfully because we choose to do so now or will we do it sorrowfully when we stand before him as Judge in the end?
Lest we think giving our “all” to Jesus is giving too much, we must remember the gain we find. Everything in eternity belongs to Jesus, given to him by God the Father in an act of love. And if we give ourselves over to Jesus in this life, then we are his brothers and sisters, fellow heirs alongside him. We have a share with Jesus in the everything of eternity.
The road we walk today might have its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows. But it will never be more painful than what Jesus suffered on our behalf, taking the wrath of God while on his cross that we might have forgiveness and life. And in eternity, every tear of our eyes will be wiped away and our darkness turned to an eternal morning.
Listen to Jesus’ call. Follow him.