The Way of the Cross ( Matt. 8: 34-38, NIV)
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
As I read through this part of Matthew this morning, and after listening to one of Billy Graham’s crusade sermons from many years ago, I began to meditate on the specifics of what I had gathered from the two. It was clear to me that a huge part of denying oneself is to deny the idolatry we so desperately tend to chase after.
‘Gaining the whole world’ is the driving force within the natural man. Is it not? We may not necessarily — literally — want to gain the whole world, but we do strive to gain what we want out of life. Whether that gain is of a simple factor, or a great gain of making a name or title of oneself. We want control.
Think about it. Most are constantly trying to gather the accomplishments to place under their belt of individuality. But, for what? Is it for the world to see — as we live in a world that is built upon competition? Is it to fill the empty place within us that we believe we can satisfy with that certain (insert your fill here)? Is it the satisfaction one can get by having more than the next, as the egoic mind takes the winning place among the players?
I believe it is all of the above.
I believe the pride we all possess is exactly what Jesus was telling the crowd to let go of as He spoke to them that day. He said that they must, “deny themselves”. As He said they must take up their cross (crucify the prideful flesh), and follow Him (look to THE TRUTH, which is Him: the embodiment of truth in all of heaven and earth), He soon followed up with the question:
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
This is the rhetorical question I have been pondering this morning.
When we gain: The riches, the titles, the materials, the achievements, the hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of gains within this world (outside of His eternal world and the world we inherit in Him within this fallen world), are we remembering where these things have come from? I heard the famous Samuel L. Jackson say something along the lines of his accomplishments not coming from a God, but rather, them coming from his hard work. This example is the epitome of the type of pride, and in my view this morning, idolatry, Jesus was speaking of.
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.
I think the man or woman without Jesus is very blind. I believe they wholeheartedly believe that everything comes directly from their achievements, and God has absolutely nothing to do with it. They don’t see the gifts that He has provided — beginning with the gift of life they have been granted, all the way down to the opportunity of eternal life through Christ when they have run the course. They think they are dead when they are dead, and everything is just a gain or loss while experiencing the way they perceive the thing called life. They reject the words, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” They reject God. They continue to lose — everything is considered a loss in one fashion or another, simply because they didn’t win. Nothing is ever satisfying outside of that win or gain, and the pat on the back becomes the only God they need.
The idolatry in all of this? Well, the majority don’t have a shrine in their backyard that they run to to worship (or maybe they do??), but they do have the entertainment of the world, or, as I had mentioned, the accomplishments accredited to self, and the many things that take the place of God being first in their lives — whether it be money, lust, intellect, materials, etc.
God commanded that we not have any other Gods before Him. I encourage you to take a look at the first two Commandments in Exodus 20. I encourage you to take a look at your life and really work on weeding out the pride and idolatry within it. Christ has forgiven you, but shouldn’t you serve Him in spirit and truth? Do you know His Spirit? Do you know His truth? Are you forfeiting your soul for your gain?