Matthew 10:37-39, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Matthew 16:24 says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Verse 26 says – “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”
According to these verses, nothing should come before our relationship with Jesus. Not our parents, not our children, not our spouse. Matthew 16:24 says you must deny your SELF and take up your cross to follow Jesus.
There it is again – the “self” word. Selfishness keeps you in the world. “Whoever finds his life (life in the world) will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake (life following Jesus) will find it.” We easily get caught up in the world, successful and self-satisfying though it may seem, yet risk the chance of missing eternity in heaven because of selfishness. Our flesh (and self) loves the pleasures of living in the world. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? All the money, all the success, all the comforts and excitement of the world are not worth forfeiting your soul.
God never “promised us a rose garden” here on earth. Nowhere in the Bible does it say life will be easy and wonderful and satisfying, as the world (and many churches) tells us it should be. Living a Godly life comes at a price. But look at the price Jesus Christ paid for us. Why should we expect NOT to pay a price? God didn’t mean for Jesus to go to the cross alone. We need to go with Him. We need to “Deny our SELVES and take up our cross.”
God will test us to see just how faithful we are and how willing we are to fulfill His plan for us. Imagine being Abraham and having God tell you to sacrifice your son, your only son that you waited many, many years for. God wanted to see how faithful Abraham would be. Abraham determined, in his mind, to follow God’s leading even if it meant killing his son. He knew his number one goal in life was to follow the will of God, regardless of what God asked him to do. He was willing to sacrifice his son. We should have the attitude of Abraham.
We are on a journey in this life. A journey to become holy and pure as God desires us to be. But guess what, we are only human and will fall and stumble and make mistakes. That’s part of learning and drawing closer to God. We don’t turn to Him when things are going well. We only fall to our knees when the going gets tough, which is why God allows us to go through the fires of life – so we will seek His face.
Pastor Garcia said in his message on Sunday, “Reproach and defeat makes you do self -examination.”
Maybe selfish people don’t feel defeat or reproach because they think so highly of themselves that they don’t process mistakes and failure personally. They don’t see the need to follow God’s plan for their lives – they want to do it on their own. They don’t understand why they should “take up their cross and follow Jesus.” And so, they have no need for self-examination. It usually takes a major crisis for a selfish person to let go of self (deny self) and turn to God.
That’s what will bring us closer to God -- examining our self in times of trouble and doubt and stress and overcoming those selfish desires. We have to be free of our self so we can follow the path God intended for us.
It often feels as though we carry the burden of a heavy cross on this journey. Why do we question and worry and whine when the cross seems to be more than we can handle? We only have to carry it. Jesus took it from us and gave his life on that cross. That, my friend, is true love at its best.