Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but Nobody wants to Die
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Luke 9: 23-24
What does it mean to follow Christ? Jesus laid it all out on the table for everyone to see in the Gospel of Luke, among other books in the Bible. Jesus always spoke very specifically when addressing the crowds and the apostles. On this specific occasion, Jesus was teaching his apostles what it meant to follow Him. He begins with saying "if ANYONE would come after me…." Anyone means anyone. This means we all have the chance to follow Him no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, or what our pasts look like behind us. But what about me? Certainly God wouldn't let me into Heaven. God knows what I've seen, and He knows what I've done. Surely, there isn't enough grace in His kingdom to let me in. Wrong. The introduction: If ANYONE would come after me. Press on toward the goal. Following this, Jesus mentions three separate things that, though short in presentation, hold very deep and important messages that are often overlooked when reading through the word. You read the stories so many times that they become stale and you start looking past them.
First, this 'anyone' that goes after Him must deny himself. What does it mean to deny yourself? It means to die to yourself, to allow yourself to be dead to the appeal and power of sin through Christ. God becomes first and you become second. He must increase so that you may decrease. Human nature teaches us our whole lives to love ourselves and to do everything in our own power to make us more lovable and more likable creatures, but Jesus asks us to sacrifice ourselves, to deny ourselves. To die to ourselves is to gain and to live in Christ.
Second, Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily. To take up a cross is to have the self-sacrificing heart of a servant and to put others before you. Jesus carried his cross until the day He was nailed to it. He paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we didn't have to, but does this mean we get to pace through life, go through the motions, and have Heaven handed to us? No. Jesus himself told us that we have to take up our cross. We have to sacrifice just as He did even though we could never compare to the price he paid.
To follow Christ is to walk away from the ways of the world. We are taught to "get ahead" at an early age, to get a high paying job, and to live like robots in a self-absorbing, self-eating society, a formula so engraved in our brains that it makes it second nature to follow a formula not of our own – a will not of our own. We want what is best for ourselves of course, but is that what God wants? Did Jesus die so that we could get what we wanted? No, Jesus died to save us, and to be an example. To live like Christ is to follow Christ, and to follow Christ is to stop following your own will and start chasing His will for you.
If you would like a more indepth analysis and explanation of what this all means, please download the podcast titled "Carrying The Cross" from Evergreen Valley Church at the link below.
*"Everybody goes to heaven, but nobody wants to die" is a song title and a book title.