If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:23–24)
It sounds so simple, but we see in the first disciples that it’s anything but easy. Following Jesus meant that they left jobs, family, friends, relationships, and other responsibilities. They were living normal lives — just like us — with a normal routine, filled with people, habits and obligations — some of them really good, all of them familiar, comfortable, and predictable.
One day, a man walks up — nothing especially striking about him, at least physically — and he calls them to leave it all behind and start a new life with no practical security and totally new priorities, new responsibilities, and a new purpose. “Follow me,” he said. Just two words, but those two words have the power to completely change the course of someone’s life.
The Same Call Centuries Later
It’s still the same call Jesus makes to us today: Follow me. Even though we’re not going to walk side-by-side with him out of town like Simon did, he’s calling us to forsake everything, to sacrifice anything that stands between us and him or that might hinder the precious work he’s given us to make him and his message known everywhere in the world. From the very beginning of his ministry until today, Jesus has been about spreading his fame by winning disciples who would believe his news, treasure him above everything else, and spend their lives sharing him with others.
For some of us the call may be more radical than others. He may call us to leave our hometown, our family, our dream job to follow him and make disciples. If we listen, he might call us to go to Kenya or India, China or Haiti — maybe for a week, maybe for thirty years. He might call us to minister to youth in inner-city Los Angeles or serve the poor in the dangerous neighborhoods of Chicago or to care for single mothers in Philadelphia.
A Call to Surrender Everything
For everyone, though, this call to follow Jesus is a call to surrender. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23).Just as Jesus went before us, dying on the cross and purchasing our life, freedom, and joy, we are to put on his selflessness. Put on his patience. Put on his sacrificial love. Making Jesus known in the world will involve dying to ourselves and displaying him, making known who he is.
When people who love Jesus surrender and sacrifice their lives, they highlight, for anyone looking, who Jesus is and what he has done to save them. When we follow him, at the expense of our comfort, our possessions, and even sometimes our friendships, we say something really amazing and profound about him and about the hope and joy that we have in him.
A Call to Depend on God
As we surrender and sacrifice to make Jesus known, he will not leave us or forsake us. He is a saving and providing God. As a disciple of Jesus, we are called to depend on him for all things, especially our life. It’s safe to surrender everything because Jesus promises, ultimately, all things to those who believe in him. Again, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23–24).The life that Jesus calls us to is a life that lasts forever. If we aren’t willing to surrender our earthly lives, but try to protect ourselves and provide for ourselves, we will lose the life we’re trying to save. But if we trust Jesus and surrender our lives, we have preserved the only life that matters.
What Jesus is promising is eternal safety and satisfaction that go far beyond any safety or satisfaction that we can have on this earth. Sacrifice this life — living for yourselves — surrender your pride and arrogance and selfishness, and I will give you security and happiness forever. It may require much of you today, but it will be worth it when you spend the rest of eternity with your Redeemer without any sin or suffering or sickness or death. Surrender radically, give generously, and sacrifice selflessly, because no one and nothing can take from you what I give to those who follow me, who deny themselves in this life for my sake.
A Call to Witness to the World
Denying yourself, taking up your cross, surrendering everything, and making all the sacrifices, it’s not just about you being poor and in pain. There’s a serious and glorious purpose in all of it. Jesus says, come after me, follow me, lose your life for my sake. We pour ourselves out, we give everything we have to glorify Jesus. We sacrifice for the sake of his name, that he would be known, loved, and worshipped by more people. With everything we do and everything we have, we witness to one another, to others, and to the world of the life-restoring, life-fulfilling God that we meet in Jesus.
Jesus, you are the greatest, most powerful, most loving person who has ever lived. Your words are more true, more compelling than any news I’ve ever heard. Your sacrifice on the cross and presence with me for eternity means more to me than anything else. I surrender my heart, my worship, my life, everything I have for your fame. I’m yours.