And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
(a) If anyone wishes to come. God does not force us but he invites us to come to his banqueting table.
(b) Deny himself. Trust Jesus instead of yourself.
To deny yourself means living each and every day out of the glorious relationship you have with the Lord. It is refusing to fall back to the inferior ways of the flesh that you walked in when you were an unbeliever, but it is standing firm in the freedom of Christ.
Contrary to what is sometimes taught, denying self does not mean denying your needs, appetites and desires. Abstaining from food, Facebook, or fun won’t make you righteous and holy. The ancient message of self-denial is nothing more than the asceticism dressed up in religious jargon. It is a message that promotes self-righteousness and DIY religiosity.
(c) Take up his cross. The way to salvation is through the cross of Christ.
The reason most Christians struggle to live the Christian life is they do not know they have died with Christ. Yet Paul says so again and again. “You died with Christ” (Col 2:20). “We died with Christ” (Rom 6:8). “We died” (2 Cor. 5:14). “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
When you were baptized or placed into Christ, you were baptized into his death (see entry for Rom 6:3). In a manner of speaking, his cross became your cross. This may be the single most important thing that ever happened to you, yet many Christians are unaware of it. And since they don’t know that they died with Christ, they are constantly trying to die.
(d) Follow Me. The way to salvation is through Jesus and his cross.
Further reading: “Take up your cross daily”
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
(a) Save his life. The original word for life (psuchē) usually refers to soul-life. (The word psychology comes from the word psuchē.) It is the fleshly life we inherit from Adam.
(b) Will lose it. Live for the appetites of the flesh and you will lose your true self. Run after the inferior pleasures of the world and you will lose your soul. What profit is that (Matt. 16:26)?
(c) Loses his life for My sake. There are two ways to lose your life. The first is to be consumed by your own appetites until your life is little more than eating and drinking and running after fleeting pleasures. The second is to turn your back on that inferior life because you have found something better by far.
(d) The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.
(e) Will save it. Real life – the kind Jesus offers – is found in fellowship with God.
The bottom-line hasn’t changed. God is inviting us to a love-relationship based on trust. He wants us to look to him as our Source (Matt. 6:25). See entry for New Life.
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?
(a) Gain the whole world. The natural mind desires the things of this world. Its concerns are, “What do I want, how can I get it, and how will it make me look?” But if we got we craved, we would not find lasting peace and joy.
(b) Forfeit his soul? The selfish life is a dead-end street that ultimately leads to self-destruction (Rom. 8:6).
The pursuit of self-gratification incurs a terrible cost. In the quest for success we put life on hold, mortgage our families, and sell our souls. We claw and fight and grab and hold and the result is conflict and dissension (Gal. 5:15). And if we make it to the top, we find nothing there because life is so much more than accomplishments and the accumulation of stuff (Luke 12:15).
Running after the hollow pleasures of this world is like building with sand. Any success will be fleeting and forgotten, buried by the passage of time. The end result of this way of life is disconnection, destruction, and death (Rom. 8:6, Gal. 6:8, Php. 3:18-19).
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
(a) When he comes. At least five different comings of the Son of Man are mentioned in the Gospels (see entry for Matt. 16:28). Whenever the Son of Man is coming with his angels, it is a reference to his final and glorious return to earth (Matt. 25:31).
(b) The holy angels. The angels of God are holy in the sense that they are whole and unbroken by sin. See also Luke 9:26, Acts 10:22, Rev. 14:10. Fallen angels are not holy (2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 1:6).
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