I know I’ve ranted in the past about the way Christians make simple biblical commands very vague, complicated, and impractical. (Or have I just played that rant over and over in my mind?) This really gets on my nerves (as you can tell). Unfortunately, though, many devotionals, Bible studies, and sermons consist of unclear principles that are as clear as day.
This is one of those common passages that has been made murky by authors, pastors, and Sunday school teachers:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).
By the way, Jesus had said this earlier:
“And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:38 NASB)
Okay, friends. Let’s get real. We know what Jesus is talking about here. We just don’t want to know what He’s talking about because then we have to do what He’s talking about.
Christ is telling us to say “no” to ourselves.
Yes, we need to tell our selfish little selves, “No.”
This is an extremely hard command to follow, but we can’t be naïve about it. We can’t fake ignorance. We know exactly what Christ’s words mean.
It means not wearing those pants that you know are too tight.
It means not yelling at your spouse when he/she accidentally makes a mistake.
It means not eating that last double-stuffed Oreo when you promised to save it for your brother.
It means sitting down and doing the work set before you today instead of checking Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter first.
It means choosing to listen to the sermon instead of daydreaming or doodling.
It means doing the un-fun job at church because no one else volunteered to do it.
It means holding your tongue when Miss Bossy Pants (from work, school, church, etc.) commands you to do something.
It means not going to that porn website you’re craving to browse.
It means not buying that $120 dress you know you can’t afford.
It means sharing the gospel with that person God has put on your heart.
Are you getting the idea? I sure am. I do a lot of things I am not supposed to do and don’t do a lot of things I am supposed to do.
When people talk about surrender, they always make it seem like a big, serious moment in a Christian’s life, which makes surrender seem scary and almost impossible. We’ll never want to set aside a moment to give everything to God because we’ll want everything back five minutes later.
So is complete surrender to Jesus even possible? Aren’t we always going to hold something(s) back? We’re going to keep sinning as long as we live.
Notice Christ’s directness and clarity: “And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:38 NASB)
If we don’t even try to deny ourselves, we don’t deserve to have Jesus. Even if we do try to deny ourselves, we don’t deserve Him. However, the main point of this post is simply this: We have to stop acting like we don’t understand basic commands and just do them.
It’s harder to say than to do, of course.
But you’re not alone. God wants you to succeed. He wants you to keep letting go of the little sins in your life. Think of every moment you say “no” to your sin nature as a victory because God is smiling.
The Christian life is hard enough without us complicating basic biblical principles. Simply remember this: Surrender is just denying yourself. It’s not doing the thing you really want to do that you know is wrong.
Remember this, too: You’ll find your life if you lose it for Him.