From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!”

But He turned and told Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.”

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done. I assure you: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”        Matthew 16:21-28 (HCSB)

I must –

Deny myself. Jesus starts with the pride. I cannot do the other two “musts” until I deny my way, my plan, and the “I – I – I” that runs through my head. This is sooooo opposite of what the world teaches and promotes. It is even contrary to some theologies – prosperity is the first one that comes to mind. Prosperity theology teaches that Jesus meant His promised “abundant life” (John 10:10) would include lots of money, big house, etc. Jesus wants me focused on Kingdom Life and lay up treasures in His Kingdom that are eternal (Matthew 6:19-21). He asks me to be obedient and trust Him to provide all that I need (not want).

Take up my cross. Each of us has a “cross”. Some are easily identified: a disease or physical challenge. Some of us may be like Paul; a “thorn” that isn’t specifically identified except by God and me. It is important to remember that Jesus had difficulty carrying His cross (Matthew 27:32) and had help from Simon of Cyrene. Jesus says I must take up my cross – but He will be there with help along the way.

Follow Jesus. I can do the first two steps but still miss God’s boat. I know a man who is very gifted. He uses his gift to serve others. He does not ask for any recognition. But he is not using the gifts in the place that Jesus led him to be (by his own admission). He allowed others to tell him to take the “safe” route and so he went off of Jesus’ path. Very sad. In reading the gospels, following Jesus may take me places I do not want to go. Jesus won’t make me. What did Jesus say to Peter?

“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”       John 21:18-19 (NLT)

Jesus doesn’t have any hidden “clauses” in our covenant. He tells me that my life here on earth may not be a party of my making – but if I stick with Him, there will be joy; there will be peace. He told Peter that there will be a great reward. Am I willing to stick with Jesus? Am I willing to “lose my life” so that I find my life in Jesus?

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