"Lose It to Save It"
Let’s assume you are considering becoming a disciple, a person defined by their pursuit of Jesus.
Step one: Deny yourself. This means acknowledging and living as if you aren’t the center of the universe. You are to look at the people around you and what they need before you take care of yourself. This is an odd thing to do in our world today.
Step two: Take up your cross. The cross was an instrument of horrific death the Romans devised to deter anyone from challenging them.
This would have sounded crazy when Jesus first said it. It sounded far crazier after He went to the cross Himself. Jesus told us we don’t follow Him in order to receive blessings and an easy life. Otherwise, every selfish person in the world would follow after Him and would become more selfish in the process. Rather, Jesus said we must be willing to forsake all else, even life itself, in the pursuit of following Him.
Step three: Follow Him. To do this we must first ask an important question, which often goes overlooked today: Where is Jesus going? This isn’t a question we ask one time at camp when we are in high school. This is a question that should be on our lips each morning and throughout each day. The nature of following means we are going somewhere. Not staying put. Not simply talking about it. Not just thinking about it. We are following Him wherever He leads us.
At first glance, Jesus’ definition of a disciple appears to be a declaration for a life of no pleasure. But if we keep reading, we see incredible words after His bold three steps. By giving of our life we actually save it!
If you want to save your life, if you want to force your will and your opinions and your pleasure, you’ll lose it all. But when you willingly give up that selfish pursuit, you gain something else entirely that can only be gained in this way. This is the contrarian logic of pursuing pleasure. Jesus offers us something radically different: follow Him. By doing that He gives us something greater entirely.