Summary: The benefits of the kingdom come to those who "lose" their lives for the gospel: deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus.
Go for It
Mark 8:34-38 (read 8:27-38)
Did you ever see me ski? I admit my heart wasn’t into it too much. Not being very good at it, I couldn’t really see the point of going up and down a hill in the cold. When I did go down the hill, I kept thinking about how not to break or sprain anything. My movements were slow, tentative, safe. And the results were not good! Ironically, just before I gave it up, it started to come together! I began to lean into the hill, make stronger movements, forget about the fear.
Much of life is like that. In any sport, you only succeed to the degree that you put yourself into it. In business, no one succeeds without total commitment. In marriage, only those who are totally committed will experience the satisfaction of building a relationship that is strong and fulfilling.
The Christian life is like that. (Project vs. 35) If someone is half-hearted (wants to try bits and pieces, doesn’t want to be too "fanatical"), they will look like a fool. If someone is afraid (lose "fun" or freedom), they will never experience the joy of living with Christ. Those who try to play both sides (live like a Christian, except when it is difficult) will be torn apart by conflicting actions.
(read vs. 35)
What does it mean to "lose your life"?
Jesus defines what he means by 3 statements (project vs. 34) )Notice: These are for "the crowd"--all followers, not just pastors or church leaders.)
1. "Deny himself"
Does that mean being totally passive--a doormat? a wimpy, dull person? Does that mean that we lose our unique personality? Jesus wasn’t like that! Neither was Peter (Mark’s source). What does it mean?
-voluntarily give up personal privileges for a greater goal. (Read 1 Cor. 9:4,12) Strong, not weak! Paul chose to give up some of his rights for his God-given goals.
-Give up "rights" to happiness when they are in conflict with God’s desires for us. (My illustration was about two church leaders who realized they no longer loved their spouses. One stuck with her marriage and a couple of years later came to the realization that love had returned. The other left his wife and found another woman, making himself depressed and unhappy.) To deny yourself means accepting that you have no inalienable right to happiness--that you may have to be unhappy for a while.
-Deny the power of baser instincts that are harmful to us and others: sex, will weekend, ethical compromise in business, extravagant lifestyle...need to please people at any cost, desire for revenge, stubborn desire to get your own way.
-Refuse to be limited by personal weaknesses or lack of ability. Moses couldn’t speak, Gideon was picked on and afraid of his family, David had no respect from his brothers. (Illustration: some youth leaders I knew who overcame limitations) (Illustration: a quiet and meek woman I knew who confronted her alcoholic husband and nursed him through withdrawal.)
2. "Take up his cross"
Sometimes people talk about a "cross to bear" ad sickness, suffering, a bad situation beyond their control. Jesus says to "take up" the cross: choose the path of commitment, even suffering.