“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. . . . Whoever loses their life for me will find it.” — Matthew 16:24
Imagine going to a financial planner who tells you that if you want to save for retirement, you have to spend all your money. Or imagine talking to a dietician who says that if you want to lose weight, you need to eat as many cheeseburgers as you can. It just doesn’t make sense. But Jesus’ teaching here can sound almost like that: To find life, you have to give up your life for him.
Being a disciple of Jesus is often about not doing what the world says we should do. We live in a culture of hyper-individualism and self-interest. “Do what is good for yourself first,” the world says. “Look out for number one.” But following Jesus means doing what he asks and not always what I want. It means relying on his strength and power, not my own. It means putting his mission and purpose above my own ambitions and goals. It means humbling myself and following Jesus, wherever he leads.
Discipleship is hard work. Even his disciples, who heard these teachings directly from Jesus, didn’t get it right all the time.
Discipleship requires that we listen closely for God to guide us. It means that we get to know his Word and what it means for our lives. It means that we seek the counsel of believers around us and discern his calling in our lives together. It also means that we stop putting ourselves first and instead love God with everything we have.