Then Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-26
It was about 30 years ago that a young man complained to a minister about the injustice and evil in this world. Like so many others before and after him, he refused to acknowledge all the troubles of the world are the creation of humankind's sinful disobedience.
The young man found it much easier to whitewash humanity and blame God for the wars, the inequities, the crimes, the pains, hurts, and tragic messes. He summed up his position with a boastful, "I could make a better world than this myself."
Quietly, the minister responded, "Good! Go do it! That's exactly what Jesus told you to do: take up your cross. Deny yourself. Follow the Savior. Does that sound difficult? It certainly can be. Maybe that is why, for many, "deny" is a nasty, four-letter word.
On the other hand, denying yourself may not be as impossible as the forces of evil would have you believe.
You see, every time you lift a cross in obedience to Christ, in thanks to Jesus your Savior, with that action of submission and respect, you can be absolutely sure the Holy Spirit will give you the strength and ability to shoulder that cross.
The results of such an action can be quite positive. Those who deny themselves often find
* the Lord is making them stronger spiritually;
* He is preparing them for a service, which will glorify Him;
* they are making a witness to those around them, which points to the transforming presence of Jesus;
* they can actually make a positive change in the pains and problems of the world.
All of this leads me to ask, are you ready? Are you ready to deny yourself?
Will you not join the millions of Christians who have found Jesus' words of encouragement to be true? Will you not look past those who are still dragging the heavy chains of this life and be joined with the hundreds of millions whom the Lord has called to faith, forgiveness, and a fulfilling life of commitment?
The truth is God can use you. He can use any believer who is ready to deny himself and, following the Savior, be dedicated to changing the world for the better.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, this world is a nasty place. Grant that I may deny myself, follow Jesus, and do all I can to change things in a way that glorifies You and benefits my neighbor. This I ask in the Name of the Savior, who lived His life to change this world and the next. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries