“Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
Does this seem harsh? At first I think it does, don’t you agree? Jesus is making an awful big statement here. “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself (everything you’ve ever wanted and hoped for), take up your cross (embrace the will of God no matter the cost), and follow Me.” The initial shock of this statement is meant, I think, by God to display a) the normal manner of Christian living, b) the allegiance Christ calls out of us, and 3) the reward for doing so. One at a time.
The normal manner of Christian living is presented in this verse. Though it seems radical is this not what Jesus calls all His followers to? Or is this what He only calls seminary graduates and pastors to? The answer is clear, Jesus calls every Christian to lay aside hopes and dreams and embrace God’s call to suffer in the footsteps of Christ upon believing in Christ. As soon as one does this they will find another thing happening along with it. When all your hopes and dreams are laid aside God fills the void with Himself. New dreams, new desires, new hope, new loves, new passions, new directions blossom into life in a heart with fertile soil that used to be a hard stony heart focused only on self.
This is part of the reason we see the second thing clearly. This is a radical call to allegiance, this is life changing stuff. Have you stopped and thought of that? Embracing life with Jesus, becoming a Christian, means everything must change. Everything. I learned this at my conversion at 20 years old. After 20 years of non-Christian living I had built up a life for myself focused on one thing, me. And now for the first time God was calling me to set that aside and pursue a higher joy and end, Him. This is a radical shift in allegiance indeed.
But it is not without reward. What will we find when we do this? Our lives. Notice that? “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” You will find that which you’ve always wanted, your life! You, who you were supposed to be all along is waiting for you with open arms with you lose your life in Christ. In fact, it is true to say that upon losing your life for Christ, you become more truly “you” than you’ve ever been before.
So the question after this call to allegiance is easy. Want to save your life? Want to find it? Lose it for Christ, lose it in Christ. He’ll empty you and fill you with the thing we need most, Him.