“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:34-35
These words are such familiar words to many of us! So familiar that they can begin to lose their meaning and their power. Christ calls us to give our everything to Him. Not giving only to the point that we can remain comfortable and content, He wants it all. C.S. Lewis said, in Counting the Cost, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.” As first glance, I was a little disturbed that Lewis chose to use the words, “a terrible thing” to refer to our complete surrendering of self to Christ. If we love Him, the Lord knows how deeply I love Him, it should be a joy to offer our all to Him, shouldn’t it?
It is a joy, but sometimes on this walk of faith, joy and terrible, joy and pain walk hand in hand to the glory of our God. As Christ laid out His hands on the cross, to be pierced for us, and endured the pain and the humiliation, His heart was full of love, and the joy of victory that was to come. The annoyance I had with Lewis’ choice of words quickly faded as my heart became full of godly sorrow and the realization that I am called to the same kind of self-sacrifice. I, too, am called to deny myself and take up my cross to follow Him.
This denying of self is so much more than choosing to do good in the face of temptation to do wrong. It is more than doing what Jesus would do, instead of doing the thing that in the moment I so long to do. It is not only not giving into my desires ~ denying of self is complete death to self. Mark 8:35 says that whoever loses his life for the sake of the gospel will save it. I want to lose my life for the gospel and for my sweet Jesus, who lost His life for me.
I am beginning to understand what this means, and my heart is full of wonder over the ways of my God, and it is also full of fear and trembling. How am I to give my life and let go of all control? This act of sacrifice goes against every fibre of who I am in the flesh. If the truth be told, I am a bit of a control freak. Having no control over what is going on around me is one thing that can make me fall to pieces faster than shattered glass. I know deep down that this image of control that I hold on to so tightly is nothing but a mirage. Letting go of the false notion of control is truly just an acknowledgment to God that I bow to the control that is His already! Yet on this point, I so often stay stiff-necked and stiff-kneed, and refuse to give it up and bow down to the sovereignty of God.
It saddens me to admit that control is not the only area of my life that I hold onto with clenched fists. Yet this grief over my lack of trust and faith keeps me running into the arms of my God. When I fail, and my stubborn heart refuses to let go, I can fall onto His wondrous grace, where the love of my Lord washes over all my sin and my aching heart. It amazes me that I can have the assurance that Jesus will do this work in me. I don’t have to have the strength and I don’t even need to understand how His will, will be done.
It is one of the vast mysteries of the Kingdom of God that I can hold Christ as my everything, laying my life down for Him in complete surrender, while at the same time, learning day-by-day how to walk in this commitment that I have made to follow my Saviour. It will all be done through the power of Him who is in me. I am far from perfect, and I have not arrived at who I long to be, but as far as God is concerned, it was finished on the cross! The victory was won, my debt was paid in full, and although I continue to struggle with giving Christ my whole life, He knows that He is my everything. He knows, and I know, that I am His, completely His. Praise His Name!