If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
The Bible is full of paradoxes — that is, statements that contain two truths that seem to be incompatible. And this is one of them: our Lord says we must lose to win. The only way to start truly living is to lose your life in service to your Savior.
When we look at today’s passage, the very first thing we need to see is that Jesus is not talking to the spiritual elite — “super saints” like Peter, James, and John. No, He is speaking to every person who desires to live a life that truly matters, a life filled with meaning, significance, and purpose . . . He is speaking to you and me today.
Notice that the words our Lord used — “anyone” and “whoever” — leave no room for exceptions. This is a call to all those who claim the name of Christ. To be sure, this call is counterintuitive for all of us, because by nature we do everything in our power to protect ourselves from any and all difficulties, hardships, and painful providences that might lead us down the road toward any kind of loss.
Now, a level of protecting oneself is certainly not a bad thing. It is biblical, in fact, because we are commanded not to live carelessly. “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge,” the wisdom of Proverbs 22:3 advises us, “but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” The sacrifice that Jesus has called us to live, the sacrifice that leads to loss, is never to be a result of careless, thoughtless, or irresponsible living, but rather sacrifice on account of Christ. When we are living for the sake of our Savior, we reject self-interest, self-rule, and self-service, which means we have invited Jesus to take His rightful place in our lives. With Jesus on the throne of our lives, the place where our King belongs, we not only understand the duty to deny ourselves, but also the responsibility to take up our cross daily. There is a cost to following Christ, and we must be willing to count that cost, and ultimately pay it, if we are His true disciples.
Sometimes this sacrifice can cost us relationships. At other times is can cost us social status or even career advancement. Our Lord’s call is not easy, but it is necessary. And we must never forget that God never commands us to do anything without giving us everything we need to get it done. We have received His strength and His power to live a life of self-denial and cross-bearing. With the supernatural strength of our Savior residing in us through the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, we can deny ourselves with great joy, regardless of the cost, and take up our cross, regardless of the circumstance.
Regardless of where this message finds you — whether you are giving up what the world would consider “good things” or enduring what the world would consider “bad things” for the glory of Jesus — remember that you are not alone. Our Lord Jesus set the perfect example of what it means to deny yourself and take up your cross daily, and in so doing, He made it clear that the cross must always precede the crown, and that true life only comes through death.
Christian, you must lose to win!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!