Summary: We must die to ourselves in order to be fully alive in Christ.
Dying to Live
37 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
40 He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man's reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.
I remember watching the western, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which two outlaws find themselves being chased by an angry posse. It was a fun movie, there was silliness, gunfights, a little romance and of course, for women, it starred Robert Redford and Paul Newman, in their prime.
Do you remember the scene in which their luck seems to have run out. They escaped to a high cliff that overlooked a raging river. Butch suggested they jump into the river, but Sundance refused. Finally as the posse closes in for the kill, Butch asks Sundance why doesn’t he want to jump. Sundance admits he can’t swim. Butch laughed and said, “it doesn’t matter, the fall will probably kill you anyway!”
Like Butch and Sundance, we face two options, we can also jump off the cliff or we can surrender. And both lead to death while we’re still alive. Yet, they are very different. Jumping means we reject Christ and allow our soul to die, which means we live a life without the power and strength, the hope and grace, the love and future Christ offers us. The other option is to follow or surrender to Christ, which calls for us to die to ourselves. It’s through this strange paradox of dying to ourself that Jesus says we truly find life, the greatest life possible.
The first step in dying in order to live is to maximize Christ in your life. If you have a computer, you’re probably familiar with the features of maximizing or minimizing the screen. When you maximize a window on your computer screen, that image fills the screen, while the other open windows or images are hidden.
When we maximize something, we make it bigger. In our world today, one of the big attractions at fast food restaurants is to super-size of maximize our meal. You see, you order a hamburger, especially off the dollar menu and what you get is nothing more than a simple hamburger at the normal size.
But we live in a world in which bigger is believed to be better, so we can super-size it and WALA . . . . we end up with a hamburger!
In today’s passage, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that we are to follow Him and be willing to change our lives for His sake. Christ becomes the focus and purpose of our lives and as the writer of Hebrews tells us we must fix our eyes upon Jesus (Heb. 12:2) and set our hearts and minds on Jesus (Col. 3:1-2). Jesus is our great and glorious Savior who is worthy of worship and worthy of our best attention and affection. We must maximize Him, not anything else. In today’s scripture, Jesus said,
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me; and anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me . . . is not worthy of me. . .
Jesus is telling us He must be first in our lives. We must love Him more than anyone or anything in life. But we find that’s not so easy to do. We get pulled in so many different directions. We want to love our families, but Jesus says love me more. We want to love our parents, but we must love Him more. We want to have some fun in this life, but pick up our cross? That’s no fun.
But . . . we want what we want and we don’t want anyone to get in our way. Life becomes focused on us, we lose perspective, because life is about our pleasure and gain. We’ve even learned how to spiritualize our self-centeredness. We can be phenomenally petty about whatever doesn’t suit us, so when Jesus tells us whoever does not take up their cross and follow Him . . . is not worthy of Him . . . it really makes us cringe. We may ask, “You mean, I really have to pick up my cross and follow Him? Is He really serious?” Because that means I may not get to enjoy all of the pleasures and receive the immediate and self-gratification I long for.