“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about this verse. These are some of Jesus’ hardest, most challenging words to His disciples (I think). He’s asking those who follow Him (me & you) to surrender completely; to die to self willingly.
When I first read that text, I started explaining to God all of the ways and times that I had been unselfish. Trying to wiggle out of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I wanted make sure that God understood that I’ve surely acted unselfishly more times than I’ve acted selfishly.
But, then I felt the whisper of His voice: “Turn from your selfish – your self-preserving – ways.” My self-preserving ways? I wanted to claim that I didn’t understand but I knew exactly what the Lord was pointing out. Taking up Jesus’ cross and following Him means I lay it all out there – just like He did. You can’t protect, defend yourself when you’re nailed to a wooden crossbeam. Likewise, Jesus wants me to be so intent on following Him, obeying His direction in my life, that I abandon myself completely to His care. When my arms are stretched wide in doing His will, I must trust that He will preserve, protect, and help me.
So, like my Lord, I’m going to try and do this. I can’t pretend that it will be easy. I may not be literally nailed to a cross (thank God!) but I hope my self-preserving instinct is. Whatever He wants me to be and to do, I want.