In Luke 9:23-25 the Bible gives a very important passage where Jesus speaks to us and the Bible says, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” In this passage of scripture Jesus tells us some very important things about salvation. He tells us who can be saved. He tells us the attitude that a person must have to be saved. He tells us something of the consequence in this life to being saved, and He reminds us of the eternal consequence in the next life.
Who can be saved? Jesus reminds us that anyone can be saved because Jesus said, “If any man come after me…” Anyone and everyone in the world can be saved, because Jesus died for everyone. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” “Whosoever will may come.” “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Jesus Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which is lost.
If anyone can be saved, then why doesn’t everyone get saved? Jesus said, “If any man come after me…” There is the possibility that some will not get saved, because to go with Jesus, to follow Jesus, to believe on Jesus requires a choice. A person must choose. A person must say, “I will follow the Savior.” One of the strongest forces in the world is the free will of a human being. God does not force us to do anything. He invites us, and He gently calls us. But we must make a choice.
Notice how the choice is described by Jesus in this passage. He said, “If any man will come after me.” Salvation is following Jesus. Other passages in the scriptures talk about salvation in regards to repentance and the forgiveness of sins. How do you correlate the two? When a person is saved they repent of their sins and find forgiveness through Christ, but they must do it with the attitude that in addition to seeking forgiveness, they are also seeking to start following Jesus. Faith without works is dead. Salvation is entirely by faith, but true faith is always followed by works because to believe means to commit oneself to. If someone is committed to Christ, then the result will be obvious.
There is a spiritual psychology to salvation. It has to do with the attitude of a person to right and wrong, to good and evil, to sin and righteousness. Why is it that some people choose to go with God, and some do not? All are sinners. Why do some repent of their sins and some do not? What goes on inside of people when this decision is made? An important part of that answer is found in John 3:19-21 that says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
Those who want to do what is right are the ones who eventually come to Jesus to repent, to believe, and to start following Him. Those who don’t are the ones who do not want to do what is right. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me.” That’s a good way to put it: “come after me.” When we become a Christian, we start following Jesus. Jesus called it coming after Him. He died for our sins, but He also showed us how to live life on this earth. When Jesus came to the earth, in a certain sense He gave up His divine prerogatives. He lived the way every human being should live: loving God, doing the will of God, and being led by the Holy Spirit in everything that He said and did. Jesus showed us that it could be done. He led the way. When we become a Christian, we go after Jesus. He did it first, and now we try to do it the way that He did. We go after Jesus. We pursue this great and high and noble standard. We never achieve it the way that He did, but we always reach out for it and we always hold forth as the one great goals of life to be like Christ. Paul said in Phil. 3:21, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.” The only thing that can keep you following Christ is yourself. The selfish will of man is the obstacle, and it can take many forms. The sinfully selfish person is not just the one who manifests the gross outward sins of the world. The worse thing you can do is to go your own way instead of God’s way. Be careful of desiring anything too strongly except for the will of God. In order to follow Christ, you must deny yourself. You must consciously and willing and freely say, “I am not going to go my own way or do my own will. Instead I am going God’s way.”
The way that we have been called to follow is a great challenge. It’s the greatest challenge in the world. We have heaven to look forward to, but until we get there it will not always be an easy road. If you decide to follow Jesus, He has made it very clear what you can expect in this life. Jesus said to the disciples, “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Part of the challenge of following Christ in this world is the cross that He will give you to bear. He bore a cross. He was nailed to His cross and He died there on the hill of Golgatha. The cross that Jesus bore was the shameful and tortuous Roman cross. Each of us also have a cross to bear. What is a cross? It’s something that you suffer that you only suffer because you went God’s way instead of your own way. Some people miss God’s will because they try to avoid the cross that was given to them. It will be a temptation to try and get rid of the cross that you were called to bear. Jesus Himself had to pray, “Father, take this cup from me. Nevertheless not my will but thine be done.”
Notice that Jesus told each Christian to “take up his cross daily.” Someone might consider their own cross and how heavy it can sometimes be, and then think that there is no way that they could ever bear such a cross for ten or twenty more years. But remember that Jesus said to take up his cross daily. Take it one day at a time. That’s all you have to do. You just have to get through one day successfully. It you can do it today; then you can do it tomorrow also. Several times Jesus taught us the importance of living life one day at a time. He told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He also told us not to worry about tomorrow, but to concentrate on the spiritual battles of today. He said, “Take no thought for the morrow for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The Apostle Paul learned about following Christ with the principle of daily taking up his cross. Paul said simply in I Cor. 15:31, “I die daily.”
From a human standpoint sometimes it appears as though a cross is a very unpleasant thing. It sounds negative, does it not? A cross speaks of suffering, and difficulty, and trial, and burdens to bear. But we must never forget that there is always a good result from a cross. Jesus had His cross, and because of the old rugged cross of Jesus, we have the hope of heaven and the forgiveness of sins and the opportunity to live for God in this world. It was a horrible cross that Jesus had to bear, but what a good result came from it. Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”
Because Jesus suffered on the cross, all the world can now be blessed with salvation. Good came out of evil. Blessing and benefit came from suffering and sorrow. When the innocent suffer, something good is going to happen as a result. That’s the power of God who sees all things and is involved in all things somehow. That’s why the promise of Rom. 8:28 is so sure. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God and to them that are the called according to his purpose.”
Things are not as they appear, and they are not going to work out the way that you think they will. That’s the irony of man trying to figure out what is the best course of action or what is the best path to take. “Your thoughts are not my thoughts, saith the Lord.” Woe to the person who does not consider the will of the Lord! How unfortunate will be the consequences for those who refuse the way of the Lord and the cross that He would have given them. The opposite will happen from what you might think would happen. That’s what Jesus was saying in Luke 9:24. He said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
That’s one of the ironies of life from the perspective of the natural man. What appears to be; is not. And what appears to not be; is. Those who decide to not go God’s way because they think they will lose something or give up something will be shown to be wrong time after time. They will lose. The biggest mistake that anyone makes is to go their own way instead of God’s way. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.”
The principle of losing our life for Christ’s sake instead of saving our life for our own sake is important at the time of salvation and is also important throughout the Christian life. If we do not learn this principle just because Jesus taught it to us, then He will give us many opportunities to learn it as we go through life. One of the reasons that some Christians cause themselves needless trouble is because of learning the hard way that it’s better to go God’s way than your own way. These can be difficult lessons to learn because of how strong is the will of man and how easily our own wills can rise up to be an obstacle to us seeking the will of God in a matter. D. L. Moody had something to say about this issue that has some truth to it. He said, “The world has yet to see what God can do through one person who is completely surrendered to Him.”
It does seem strange that someone would chose to not go God’s way. If someone were standing at a crossroads in life, and knew that they could go one way and have the blessings of God, the power of God, and the will God; or go another way and lose those things, surely more people would make the right choice. It’s just a matter of understanding the consequences. Understand your way. Understand your choices and the potential consequences, and then you will know what to do. That’s what Jesus is saying in Luke 9:25. He says, “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself or be cast away?”
Jesus is talking about the value of a human soul. There is nothing in the world more valuable than one soul. There is no advantage to gaining the whole world if you lose your soul because your soul is worth more than the whole world. Also, the world is passing away. It’s temporary. You are going to live in this world for a few short years, but you are going to live somewhere else forever.
Of course, what Jesus said is true not only concerning being saved or lost, but also concerning the fulfillment of your life. The reason that we were put on this earth is to know and serve God and to do His will. There is no such thing as finding the will of God for your life some day and then doing that thing for the rest of your life. God’s will is unfolded to you day by day. You find out God’s will one day at a time. You can also miss His will one day at a time. For every day that you do not deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Him, you will miss God’s will. You will lose opportunity and reward. If too many days pass that way, then your life could become a cast away. You could miss knowing the purpose that God has you here for. Even with all that the Apostle Paul had accomplished, he knew that there was always the possibility that he would fall, and so he was on his guard on a daily basis. He wrote in I Cor. 9:24-27, “Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beats the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away.”
It’s a great challenge and privilege to be called to follow the Lord Jesus Christ in this world. I hope you have taken up the challenge while there is still time.
Copyright; 2000 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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