“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34
Christ said if we were going to become His disciples, we would have to deny ourselves and take up ours crosses by living lives of willful self-denial. Self-denial and cross bearing are non-optional for the true Believer. Christ promised by losing our lives we would find ourselves. In other words, as Believers we are called to surrender ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ- every day of our lives. Giving up our lives for Jesus and the sake of His gospel, means striving to “…live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way.” (Colossians 1:10).
This requires that we “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves…” It also requires that each one of us is careful to “…look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:4-5). If we are going to lose our lives for Christ then we will have to give up our self-centeredness, our self-promoting ways, our heady self-sufficiency, our cut-throat self-preservation, and our constant self-defensiveness.
We can give up self-centeredness and self-promotion by intentionally drawing attention away from ourselves and towards God by developing a quiet and gentle spirit. We lose self by losing the abrasive, angry, sensual, loud-mouthed, tough girl; by smothering her with a gentleness, forbearance, and humility of Christ. This means that we stop using our words, actions, and clothing to draw attention to ourselves, and use our time, talents, and energy for the benefit of others and glory of Christ.
We can give up our heady self-sufficient ways by acknowledging our weaknesses, needs, and inadequacies to God, and by humbly asking other people for their help in the face of our inadequacies. The Lord expects His children to exhibit the child-like humility that is willing to admit its own helplessness.
We can give up our sinful self-preservation by valuing the needs of the people that God has entrusted to our care more than we value the desires of our own flesh. Practically speaking, this means that we recognize that our children need us more that we need to get high. This also means that we live in a way that reflects that we understand the truth that our children need our emotional care more than our friends or dysfunctional families need us to be an emotional crutch for them. Tactics of cut throat self-preservation can range from the lies that we tell to avoid our God-given responsibilities; to the addictions in which we indulge- because we “just can’t take it anymore”. The Lord calls us to abandon these self-preserving behaviors, trust God, and take up the cross in obedience to God.
Finally, we can give up our constant self-defensiveness by learning to be okay with not having the last word, accepting that we will sometimes be wrongly misunderstood and by acknowledging the reality that we are not always right.
The problem losing our lives for Christ; is that it feels embarrassing and uncomfortable to us. That is; the crucified life (as the Christian life is sometimes referred to) sometimes makes us feel vulnerable and out of control. These emotions are the same emotions that we felt when we experienced the emotional traumas of abortion, abandonment, betrayal, divorce, abuse; and/ or neglect. That is why those of us that have been subjected to these sorts of sin will have an especially hard time feeling vulnerable and like we are losing control.
However, what we need to realize is that all control- other than self-control- is an illusion. It is a satanic lie from the pit of hell. No-body is in control but God: because no-body is all-powerful but God. When we lose ourselves for the sake of Christ, and His Gospel we don’t make ourselves more vulnerable than before, we don’t lose control. We just become aware (all be it, sometimes painfully aware) of the realities that we have never been in control, and that as frail humans, we are always vulnerable to injury.
Think about it. We were born helpless- we live our lives completely dependent on the sustaining grace of God (whether we admit it or not); and then we die- completely incapable of choosing the time, the place, or the way that we die. Unless, of course we commit suicide. But, even if we do decide to end it all ourselves- we still can’t control what happens after that. The second a person dies they become painfully aware of their utter helplessness and powerlessness- totally incapable of controlling even one second of an everlasting destiny. The point is that we are not in control: we never have been; we are not now, and we never will be. The sooner that we understand this truth, the sooner that we will experience the wonderful freedom of the super-natural gift of self-control.
Self-control is a very freeing grace gift from God. Self-control is the abolitionist that sets us free from the enslavement of our addictions. It is the freedom key that unlocks the door to our new lives in Christ. It breaks our bonds to the fear of men, loosens the chains of our insecurity, and sets us free to walk in the joyful power of fearless submission to God. So, when we start to feel like we are losing control as a result of losing our lives for the Lord’s sake, we can remind ourselves that Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”