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 16:26-27)
When you compare yourself to other people with money, fame, power, and talent such as celebrities, professional athletes, billionaires, media talking heads, and politicians do you ever think: “What is the use of following God? Others do what they want and get what they want. I deserve it. It’s my turn now. Why should I give up what I want? Why shouldn’t I get what they have?’’ And these days maybe we also tempted to emulate people who loot and pillage: why can’t I do that? I deserve it. How do you cope with such temptations? Or do you just succumb to them?
As Christians we may have such thoughts, but we need to realize that the Lord has called us to be His followers, His disciples. And what is the cost of discipleship? Jesus tells us that it is the denial of self. That is not the same as self-denial in which we deny things to ourselves at times such as food, water or material possessions in an attempt to discipline our fleshly appetites and build up our spiritual or physical strength. Denial of self involves surrendering my whole life with my wants and desires to God to do what He wants, to trust Him to take care of all that I need. For material possessions and worldly pleasures do not count for eternity: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Jesus is the example for us to follow. He surrendered the glory of heaven to come to earth as a man and be abused and crucified. If we say we are His, then we must act as He did. We give up all for the cause if the Kingdom of God. We begin not by fulfilling the lust of the flesh, marching in a protest, nonviolent or not, but by loving others and doing good to all men. We must do what Jesus did, forgive, love, do good, lay down our lives for others. Our obedience and faithfulness to the truth, not our mere words, not our mere profession of faith is the essential aspect and demonstration of our faith.