For the last thirteen days our focus has been on developing a new pattern of behavior in our lives: namely, a daily
private prayer time with Jesus. Today, however, instead of focusing on developing a new behavior, our focus is on developing a new attitude regarding our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus demands much of those who want to follow Him:
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
First, Jesus tells us we must deny ourselves if we want to follow Him. How do we deny ourselves? We totally surrender our desires and directions in life to the will of Jesus. Instead of living to fulfill our own hopes and dreams regarding how our lives should be lived, we live to do what Jesus commands us to do.
This idea is made clear in verse 24 of today’s scripture: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. Here Jesus makes the point that if we choose to live life to fulfill our own agendas (saving our lives) we will lose our lives. If, however, we choose to live for Jesus (losing our lives to accomplish His will), we will save our lives.
Second, Jesus tells us that we must take up our cross daily if we want to follow Him. This obviously refers to choosing to do God’s will in our lives even if it means we die. In other words, like Jesus, our hearts are to be so focused on accomplishing the will of God that the threat of death or even death itself will not deter us. Followers of Jesus must regard their own physical wellbeing as secondary to obeying the Lord.
Please note: Jesus is not saying that every follower will be martyred. But He is insisting that every follower of Jesus be willing to choose God’s will above even their own lives. Jesus is talking about the attitude each of us who follow Him must adopt. This attitude is to be adopted every day. His will is more important than even our physical lives.
Third, Jesus insists that we follow Him. In other words, we go where He wants us to go. We do what He wants us to do. We say what He wants us to say. We submit to His leadership in every area of our lives. Our own ideas of how life should be lived are surrendered to His command. We willfully lose our lives by surrendering every aspect of living to Jesus.
Frankly, these are extremely hard concepts for you and I to adopt into our lives. Even if we have a basic understanding of the points Jesus makes in Luke 9:23-24, our attitudes tend to lead us away from surrender.
Most of us have been saturated with the idea that it is ours to choose how we live our lives. After all, we are told we are free. We are free to decide for ourselves how our lives should be. We are told we can accomplish anything if we simply set our minds to it and work hard enough. We celebrate “Independence Day”. We generally regard submitting our wills to the leadership of another as weakness.
Jesus, however, abolishes “Independence Day” among His followers. Instead, we are told to depend on Him in every area of life. We must deny ourselves. We must take up our crosses daily. We must follow Him. Those who refuse to allow Jesus total control of their lives cannot be His disciples:
Luke 14:33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Tomorrow we will look more deeply into the implications of this total surrender to Jesus. But for today, let’s finish with a few questions to help us evaluate our attitudes when it comes to following Jesus.
Please answer these for yourself:
- Is the attitude of your heart one of self-denial in order to follow Jesus?
- Is following Jesus the highest priority of your life?
What can you point to in your life that proves your answers? Make a list. How do you deny yourself? If you were put on trial for following Jesus, what evidence would the prosecutor have to convict you?
It should be clear by now that relationship with Jesus is not like other relationships we have in our lives. He is our master. We are His slaves. We lose our lives to Him. He saves us.