The other night I attended a night of worship with some of the staff ahead of our classis meeting. We split off into groups and discussed Mark 8:34-35, which says, “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.” We were asked to share a word that stood out to us and something that challenged us in the verse. For me the word that stood out was deny. As I said that, a number of heads nodded. Most of us felt the same way.
In this passage, Jesus is telling the crowd that in order to follow Him they had to first deny themselves. One thing that you know, if you’ve been in it for a while, is that the Christian life can be hard; sometimes agonizing. It's hard because denying our fallen selves is hard, we want to be comfortable but know we must answer to a higher calling. Any death is hard, some much more than others, and we grieve those losses. However, it's how life is designed to be. Our lives are so precious and so fleeting. Nothing displays the worth of Jesus more than our willingness to give away one of the only things we really have—in small and large ways—for his sake.
When I let my “self” take too much control, I start to rely on my own ability. This leads me down paths that God is not directing me. Pride is stirred up and I lose my way. I get caught up in what I want for my life and not on where God is calling me. The only things that Jesus asks us to deny ourselves of are what will rob us of eternal joy. The more time I spend relying on my own ability, the longer I miss out on God’s perfect will.
This week, think about that concept. Think about what it means to deny yourself, to take up your cross and follow Jesus. What is God asking you to deny? Ask him and he will show you. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
Trust that the reward of denial outshines the temporary satisfaction of doing it your way.