Discipleship is not a game; it is a serious matter with eternal consequences. In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus talks about the meaning of true discipleship and He gives us a clear direction on how to live as His followers. In our previous discussions on this passage of Scripture we learned that True Discipleship is Voluntary, and that True Discipleship Requires Personal Sacrifice. Today, we expand upon these building blocks by examining Jesus’ words in Mark 8:35-37 (HCSB).
34 Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? 37 What can a man give in exchange for his life?”
In verse 34, Jesus calls upon His followers to practice self-denial and self-sacrifice as we have previously discussed. In our focal passages today (vv. 35-37), Jesus goes on to explain that true discipleship requires absolute commitment. Simply put, it’s a matter of life and death.
The disciple’s cross, as it is sometimes called, is a conscious choice of God’s will over individual will. Through self-denial and self-sacrifice we voluntarily take up our cross and follow Jesus. But why would anyone do such a thing, why would anyone voluntarily reject human wisdom and desire to endure hardship?
Paradoxically, Jesus teaches that to save our life we must be willing to lose it. That means entrance into true discipleship comes when one leaves behind old allegiances to this life and self-interest and pledges allegiance to Jesus and a new life as His disciple.
The Greek word “psyche” (life) is used twice in verse 35 and it refers to one’s natural physical life yes, but it also refers to one’s true self, the essential person that transcends the earthly sphere. One who chooses a self-centered life in this world over the selfless life required of Jesus’ disciples will ultimately lose his life to eternal ruin. Conversely, a person who “loses” his life (even literally, if necessary) in allegiance to Jesus by accepting His requirements (v. 34) will actually preserve it eternally. As a true follower of Jesus, he or she is heir to eternal life (Rom. 8:16-17).
Jesus is very clear in this passage; this is a matter of paramount, eternal importance. In fact, there is no more significant decision anyone has to make in this life. Choosing to follow Jesus and submitting to His requirements demonstrates to the world that we are truly His. What choice will you make? Will you choose temporal life which is self-centered, or will you choose eternal life which is Christ-centered and others focused? The choice is yours and yours alone to make. Choose wisely!
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