Let’s begin by reading Mark 8:34-35, “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” We might think of this portion as ‘the cost of following Christ’. Some tend to think that when we accept Christ as our savior and begin to follow Him, that life suddenly becomes easy. While it is true that the Lord will strengthen and comfort us for whatever we have to endure, it is also true that following Christ involves hardship.

The first thing we have mentioned is SELF-DENIAL. This self-denial should include everything, even to life itself, which we ought to be willing to give up for the sake of Christ. To deny yourself is simply to take yourself off your pedestal and make Christ the most important thing in your life. It has been said that to deny oneself doesn’t mean that you think bad things about yourself, neither does it mean that you think good things about yourself. It means that you don’t think of yourself (your desires, your wants, your lusts, your personal happiness, etc.) at all.

The next thing necessary to be a true follower of Christ is to TAKE UP YOUR CROSS. The cross is a symbol of suffering. We read in Philippians 1:29, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE.” 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION.” The Lord said in Matthew 10:38, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Suffering is part of the believer’s life. While suffering is certainly not appealing to us, there is great value in it. 1 Peter 3:14 tells us, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.” What joy is found in suffering for the Lord’s sake and know that you are honoring Him for doing so!

Why is SELF-DENIAL and SUFFERING necessary to follow Christ? To follow Him is to experience what He experienced, to suffer what He suffered. It is to walk in the same path that our blessed Lord walked. We read in 1 Peter 2:21-24, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that YE SHOULD FOLLOW HIS STEPS: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

HOWEVER, if we choose to put ourselves above Christ, if we choose to live our lives by pleasing ourselves, or if we refuse to live a life of suffering for Christ, we lose the opportunity to live eternally with the Lord. Indeed if we choose to ‘save our lives’, we will actually ‘lose our lives’. If we choose to live our lives in search of pleasures and ease, we are denying the words of Christ and are refusing Him the rightful place of Lord of our lives. The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:15, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…” Paul was willing to give ALL HE HAD and ALL HE WAS for the cause of Christ. We read in Ephesians 2:10 that, as believers on the Lord Jesus that we were “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” The one who is truly repentant of his sins, and who turns to the Lord Jesus for salvation, will have a heart to live for and serve the Lord Jesus. Yet, to value our own individual lives and refuse to live a life of self-denial, suffering, and service to the Lord, is to reject Christ as Lord and Savior. What about you, dear reader? Have you determined to ‘save your life’? Or are you willing to lose your life for Christ and the Gospel’s sake? The answer will determine your eternal destiny. (280.10)