Dethrone, Die, Decide
While He was on earth, Jesus presented two very different approaches to life: either you deny yourself, or you live for yourself; either you embrace the cross, or you ignore the cross; either you save your own life for your sake and the world's, or you lose your life for His sake and the gospel's--two completely different ways of doing life.
Mark 8:34-37 says, "When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, 'Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'"
Jesus was talking about discipleship here. "If you're going to follow Me"--that's what a disciple is. A disciple of Jesus is more than just a churchgoer. A disciple is one who learns from and follows the Lord Jesus Christ on a personal level by obeying what He said. I love seeing people come forward every week at church to give their lives to Christ. But while that is such a great joy, once a person believes, they need to follow, thrive, and grow, or else you'll have a bunch of believers with stunted spiritual growth.
So Jesus gave the directives. If you're going to follow after Him, there are a few things you need to do: dethrone, die, and decide. First, you need to dethrone yourself, or as Jesus put it, "Deny [yourself]." Now, when you hear that phrase, don't think it means denying things for yourself, like Lent; that's really not the original meaning. It simply means dethroning yourself, not living for yourself anymore.
Along with that is dying: "Take up [your] cross." The idea of taking up your cross is death. The cross meant death. It's the end of selfish ambition and the beginning of serving the Lord.
The third thing to do is to decide, or as Jesus put it, "Follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it." Our Lord was speaking to disciples who needed to make a decision about who they were going to follow, because they would soon be facing intense persecution. The idea is that you need to decide now, because when the heat is turned up and it's hard to follow, you need to make sure that you've truly lost your life for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Then Jesus said, "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" This is how I like to think about it: you can decide right now whether you're going to merely exist or really live. There's a big difference between the two.
Following Jesus Christ is really living--it's the ultimate adventure, because when you serve Him, deny yourself, and die to your own ambition, you're basically saying, "Okay, Lord, I'm Yours. I don't know where this road is going to take me, but I'm up for the adventure. You're in charge; You're driving."
You know that bumper sticker that says "Jesus is my copilot"? Tear that off your car. Don't let Him be your copilot; let Him be your pilot--just let Him drive! Deny yourself, take up your cross, and really start living.
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