Read Mark 7-9
Highlight: Mark 8:34-35
And He summoned the multitudes with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s shall save it. “
We hear stories of remarkable survivors: people who through sheer power of will to live, claw their way back from the brink of death. Have you heard of a soldier, a crime victim, an calamity survivor, conquering all odds to live to tell their story? Their experiences testify to the power of the will to live that works within our human nature. We praise the survival instinct and we admire such people.
Yet, Jesus’ words turn all this upside down! Is our natural self-preservation and safety-seeking actually an obstacle to discipleship? Note that Jesus speaks this paradox right after rebuking Peter for encouraging Jesus to self-preservation. Jesus said Peter was seeking man’s interests above God’s.
God’s ways are 180 degrees opposite our natural logic and instincts. His wisdom seems like foolishness to the natural mind. We cannot live our lives of faith and discipleship relying on our own reasoning, nor our own instincts, nor our own inclinations. We must have our understanding enlightened by God’s revelation, having our minds renewed, led by the Spirit, and this comes through His holy Scriptures.
Jesus says we each have a cross. A cross is where our will and God’s will intersect. Our natural self—it is called the unregenerate nature, the fallen nature, the old man, the carnal man, original sin, one not born again–the natural man seeks to preserve itself from death there at the cross. But praise be to God, who sent Jesus Who submitted in Gethsemane to go to the Cross before us, and for us!
If we just say, “Yes,” to Jesus, His grace enables us to take up our own cross of death to our old fallen self. He gives water baptism as a watery grave in which we bury the old sinful natural self. Then He raises us in a resurrection of new life now by His Holy Spirit, as temples of His indwelling, with the promise of everlasting life in the ages to come. This is the gospel!
Jesus didn’t come to merely CHANGE our lives—He comes to EXCHANGE our lives! He calls us to die to the old natural life and its self-seeking, He took our sinful self upon Himself, and He replaces it with HIS holy abundant righteous life abiding inside. He makes us new creations!
Dear Jesus, Your words are hard. They are so “other” than my logical understanding. You instruct me to do something opposite my natural inclination. I don’t think I can do it on my own effort. But I trust You, I believe You, and I want to follow You. So make me willing, grant me Your grace, open my understanding, and empower me with Your Spirit. Thank You for the Cross, where You exchange Your Holy obedient abundant everlasting Life for my corrupt fallen sinful self. Amen.