Mark 8:34-35 34And Jesus called [to Him] the throng with His disciples and said to them, If anyone intends to come after Me, let him deny himself [forget, ignore, disown, and lose sight of himself and his own interests] and take up his cross, and [joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me [continually, cleaving steadfastly to Me]. 35For whoever wants to save his [higher, spiritual, eternal] life, will lose it [the lower, natural, temporal life which is lived only on earth]; and whoever gives up his life [which is lived only on earth] for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it [his higher, spiritual life in the eternal kingdom of God].
We are back to our study on following Jesus. Today we will look at verse 34. Jesus called to His disciples and told them, If you want to truly follow me, you will deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. The first thing we will see today is that if we are going to follow Christ we have to give up what we want. The society we live in today seems to have a mindset that we should do what we want, have what we want, say what we want and act like we want. But Jesus tells us, that we have to ignore what we want and what our interests are in favor of what He wants and what His interests are. In order to follow Him we have to do what the Word says rather than what we want.
It’s amazing to me that whatever we deny our flesh, our flesh wants more of. Don’t believe me? Go on a diet. Tell yourself that you are not going to eat sweets for a month. I’ll bet you that every Snickers commercial, every trip to the grocery store as you’re standing at the checkout corner looking at all the candy, every time you see a picture in a magazine of a beautiful cake, you’re flesh is going to scream! You’re going to wish more than anything in the world that you could just eat one cookie! Maybe you haven’t even eaten sweets for a couple of weeks, but the minute you tell yourself “No”, your flesh rises up! Our church went on a fast for 21 days in January, as did many other churches around the country. I was doing a partial fast, just eating one meal a day and no sweets, and I remember thinking, “I wish I had done a Daniel Fast because they can eat any fruit or vegetable they want all day long”. Those on the Daniel Fast probably thought, “I wish I was just fasting sweets, because then I could eat a nice juicy steak for dinner tonight.” Those fasting sweets probably thought, “I wish I was doing a partial fast, because although I’m only eating one meal a day, at least I could have a piece of chocolate cake with my lunch.”
Paul had good reason to say, In 1 Corinthians 9:27 27But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. Paul learned to discipline himself, to deny himself what his body wanted. Paul’s reason was so that he would have trained his flesh so well, that there would be no way he would fall into temptation. He also tells us in Romans 12:1 I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. To sacrifice means to give up, forego, forfeit, let go or surrender. Our first step to following Jesus begins with sacrificing our desires, letting go of the things that we want, and surrendering every part of our life to Him.