Friday, January 10, 2020 -
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds” (Matthew 16:24-27).
Here we find the very essence of the salvation message straight from the mouth of the Redeemer of all mankind. For Christ Himself identifies it as such – “Whoever wishes to save his life…” And Christ Himself was our one example to follow. Just as He gave His life willingly in order to bear the punishment of the sin of the world, so we, too, must surrender our lives to God’s will, which is to follow Christ.
It is not coincidental that Jesus says this immediately rebuking Satan for tempting Him (through the mouth of Peter) to abandon His fore-ordained role to die for the sin of mankind. Jesus is telling His disciples – and us – that salvation comes only by us doing the same – denying ourselves and taking up the cross, and following Him. The tense of these verbs are very interesting and important to understand: Denying ourselves and taking up our cross is something we do once and for all – an initial binding decision to surrender our life and will to Christ! Just as Christ Himself, through His example when tempted by Satan (see Matthew 4:1-11), rejected Satan’s temptations of self-preservation and self-glorification and riches in the physical sense, so we must also deny ourselves to the world’s lure. He shows us what we must do to be saved, make a choice, deny ourselves, bear our cross (even unto death), and follow after Him. Jesus’ imperative for us to follow is actually in a different tense than to deny ourselves and take up our cross. For those are one-time decisions. But when we’re told to follow Him, it is to be an ongoing process which is a result of those first decisions, and is continuous for the rest of our life!
Jesus clarifies what denying one’s self and bearing our cross means in verse 25. It is denying our instinct to preserve and gratify ourselves. Instead, we must give ourselves completely to Him. If we shirk our responsibility in denying ourselves and taking up our cross, there is no salvation for us. If we merely go through life with an attitude of self-gratification and self-preservation, we have not denied ourselves! Attempting to do whatever we can to save ourselves physically will cause us to die spiritually, and there is no hope for our souls in eternity! You will be cast into the outer darkness; in that place, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30), a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46). Instead, we must be willing to lose our life for Christ’s sake. For only then will we find life fulfilling and eternal. Jesus then tells us that it matters not if we gain the whole world if we are going to in turn forfeit our soul.
Note again Jesus here clearly states that this is the means to salvation. It is not rotely repeating a prayer asking Jesus to come into our life. Nowhere in Scripture (unless you interpret Romans 10:9 this way) are we told that salvation is merely praying a prayer. It is easy to recite a prayer without truly denying yourself (repenting and surrendering your life completely), taking up your cross (giving Him full control once and for all), and following Him for the rest of your life.
Jesus then tells why this is so important because His coming again is imminent! And then comes the judgment!