We all know what being the Messiah meant for Jesus. Even Jesus Himself knew. Before he ever went to the cross, Jesus told His disciples about the things He would suffer, the rejection he would endure and how He would be killed at the hands of those who hated him (see Matthew 16:21).
Sure, we know what being the Messiah meant for Jesus- but what does it mean for those who follow Him today? Well, in Mark chapter eight we find Jesus talking about what it means to truly be a disciple of His…
The New King James Version of this section says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” “Denying yourself” and “taking up your cross” are two important -but difficult- characteristics that identify a true disciple of Jesus.
“Denying yourself” means that a true follower of Christ can no longer be totally absorbed in whatever they might personally want or desire. It means abandoning the self-centered life in favor of the God-centered life. “Taking up your cross” means that we should be prepared for the rejection and intolerance that eventually touches all true followers of Christ. After all, Jesus Himself was called “Beelzebul” (the equivalent to our modern-day Satan) in Matthew 10:25 so we should be prepared for no less.
Jesus goes on to say, “If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it.” In other words, the person who persists in totally following their own interests and desires without regard to God will never experience eternal life with Him. But- if you set aside your own personal desires and interests for Jesus’ sake and “give up your life” for Him then you will be trading this life that you’ve given up for true eternal life.
The Doctor believes that this is one of the most common sense statements in all Scripture. When Jesus says, “…how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world but loses his soul in the process?” He is indicating that things are going to be a lot different in eternity. In other words, things that are considered to be of great value now could be worthless then!
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you had complete control over one of the first video games ever made- PONG, seen at left. PONG was a game like tennis- two players with rectangular “paddles” hit a “ball” back and forth. When one player missed, the other player would get a point.
Now let’s say that you totally control this game and no one can play it unless you allow them to. Because you have complete control over this game, anyone who wants to play PONG will have to come to you, right?
Well, while it might be nice to have complete control over this game, the reaction of most people would probably be, “So what– who wants to play PONG??” After all, in an age when gamers can choose between many advanced 21st century gaming systems, who wants to play an old, outdated video game like PONG?
Do you get the point? Just as PONG has been replaced by newer, faster and better games, so too will this life that we’re now living be replaced by the new, better life that Jesus will give to us. Holding on to this life would be like holding on to PONG when you could trade it for the latest game that’s a thousand times more advanced.
Then Jesus says something very interesting in the Scripture we just looked at. He says, “And anyone who is ashamed of Me and my message in these days of unbelief and sin, I, the Messiah, will be ashamed of him when I return in the glory of my Father, with the holy angels.”
What Jesus is saying here can take many forms. Sometimes people are ashamed of Jesus and His message because they are concerned about appearing “too religious” around their friends or family. Then there are other Christians for whom the most important thing in life is not Christ, but to be liked and accepted by others.
Other people are very up front about their faith- unless they happen to be around people who they want to impress or think well of them. Peer pressure can often play a large role in determining whether someone is ashamed of Jesus and His message.
If you find yourself fitting into one of these examples then it’s time to be honest with God about it! If there have been times when you’ve been ashamed to be up front about your relationship with Christ, then get some time alone with God in prayer and let Him know where you’ve been falling short. Then you can ask Him to help you put Jesus first in every situation!
While denying yourself and taking up your cross doesn’t represent the flashiest lifestyle, giving up this life in exchange for eternal life with God through Christ works out to be a pretty good bargain in the end. For as the Apostle Paul says..