Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24
Last Spring I bought several bags of grass seed, then set the bags in my yard and watched them. I was very disappointed in that after several days the bags of seed did absolutely nothing. No grass grew. Now you might be saying, “that’s absolutely ridiculous, the seeds won’t work just sitting in the bag!” You know what—you’re right—they have to be planted in order to be useful. A seed becomes fruitful when it is used for its intended purpose.
The same holds true for us. In order for real life to develop we have to be willing to go, to be planted, and to die in order that we may live! I could not hold on to the seeds a I purchased. I had to get rid of them in order that they could fulfill their purpose.
It is expected that if seeds are going to work they must surrender what they are in order to become what God intends them to be. It is the same with us. For the Christian it is expected that we are to follow Jesus in order to become what God intends us to become. In John 10:27 Jesus stated, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” If you are a Christian, Jesus states that you will follow Him. Following Him changes us just as it changes the seed.
Now when the seed is planted it will cost the seed something. It will be rooted, sprouted and then transformed into a useful plant that bears fruit. The seed will never be the same. Following Jesus will cost us something, but we will then be rooted, sprouted and transformed into useful, fruit bearing Christians. What will this cost you?
Denying Yourself: To deny self is a “Christ and others first” approach to life at all times. This is not something we do some of the time or most of the time, but all of the time. Whatever the Bible says to do then do it. Obedience to the Word of God must be our top priority. When the seed is planted, watered and properly cared for it has no choice but to obey and bear fruit. Are you beating fruit? Are you denying yourself or is your life consumed with self?Take up Your Cross: When Jesus spoke these words there was never any doubt as to what He was referring. The cross was the cruelest forms of death. It had no other purpose but fear, pain and torture to the very end. The cross was death row. Today many Christians find no real purpose for the cross except as an ornament for the body and an emblem that sits atop the church. Jesus meant for the cross to be the journey for the Christian life—a one-way ticket of never ending sacrifice. Once a person headed to the cross there was no turning back. This is how Christ intends our life to be. The only solution to the death of the cross is the resurrection power of Jesus.Lose Your Life: In Matthew 16:25 Jesus continues, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Here’s the bottom line when it comes to finding God’s plan for our lives: we will never know how to live until we learn how to die. Die to what I want and live to what God wants. In God’s economy losing is gaining! This is not easy—if it was every Christian would be sacrificially serving God and content in their God-given roles for life. We will never experience the resurrection power of Jesus until we are dead to ourselves. The seed won’t grow until it dies to what it is in order to become what it is supposed to be.
If we fail to deny ourselves, take up our cross and lose our own lives, then Jesus tells us of the sad outcome in Matthew 16:26, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” We will gain the world yet lose our soul. We will lose who God intends us to be. We may gain fame, fortune, and importance that have no eternal value yet miss out on the supernatural power of God that can direct our lives onto an amazing path of service for Him. Don’t miss it!