The third passage of Scripture I am zeroing in on during this Lenten season is found in Mark 8:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the God will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? If any of you are ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." (Mark 8:34-38)
Tonight, February 24, 2015, I started thinking about this passage and Jesus' words: "…take up their cross…" I have no fancy words to help us understand this. Jesus flat out says: "If you want to follow me, you must die."
In other words, "Offer your body, your very selves, as living sacrifices to God." Essentially there is no difference between what Jesus said and what Paul wrote.
I'm wondering: Did I die today? Did I give up today? Did I quit today? Did I stay on the altar today? Did I stay on the cross today?
Just before this Jesus said to Peter, yes, Peter who had just rebuked Jesus for daring to suggest that was going to be killed, Jesus said to that Simon bar Jonah, "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."
It's easy enough to understand, right? The person who refuses to die daily has little more in mind than the things of Satan. The person who willingly goes to the cross, daily, is able to 'test and approve what God's will is–his good, and pleasing, and perfect will.' If we want to be Jesus' disciple–that should give us pause too, right?: Do we really have the will to be Jesus' disciple? Do we really want to be his disciple? Do we really want to follow him?
Because if we do there is only one way to do so: Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow Jesus. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus then you are required to follow Jesus where Jesus leads. You are required to deny yourself–all those urges, and doubts, and fears, and desires, and lusts. You are required to die.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:11-12; and read the rest too.)
This means that much of the extracurricular things we do on a daily basis, as long as we are living, will have to be forgotten. It means that my will must necessarily take less than a backseat. It means my will must be outside the car and way back at the truck stop. It means I must stop giving priority to my will, my plans, my ambition, my dreams, my desire, my lusts, and myself. It means that if these things are at the forefront of my daily existence that I am not looking intently at Jesus.
It means that the will of Jesus must be the overarching, governing theme of my everyday existence. It means we need to spend time with Jesus each day so that we might test what his will is, so we will know where to God, so we will know what to do. It means I must die: quite literally and quite figuratively.
Why do you think the sacrificial offerings were offered daily in ancient Israel? They were daily reminders that sin costs. They were daily reminders that someone else was paying the price.
This brings us back to Hebrews 12:1-2:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Because as I wrote in another post: when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we know exactly where we are going and in what direction we need to travel to get there.
Jesus gave his life for everyone else. We are to give our lives to Jesus.