Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 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? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
This week my pondering will be a little different. I want to share one quote and one story that I came across this week that I think are helpful in thinking about these verses.
John MacArthur writes: This passage sets forth the heart of Christian discipleship and it strikes a death blow to the self-centered false gospels that are so popular in contemporary Christianity. It leaves no room for the gospel of getting, in which God is considered a type of utilitarian genie who jumps to provide a believer’s every whim. It closes the door to the gospel of health and wealth, which asserts that if a believer is not healthy and prosperous he has simply not exercised his divine rights or else does not have enough faith to claim his blessings. It undermines the gospel of self-esteem, self-love, and high self-image, which appeals to man’s natural narcissism and prostitutes the spirit of humble brokenness and repentance that marks the gospel of the cross.
Jim Elliot was a promising student at Wheaton College in Illinois. He was a champion wrestler, honor student, amateur poet, and was warmly admired by students at Wheaton. He dated and married the prettiest girl at the school. He was truly the “big man” on campus.
In his studies, he read the words of Matthew 16:24-28 and took them seriously. During his senior year, he wrote in his journal these now famous words: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
God called him to take the gospel to an unreached tribe, the Auca Indians in Ecuador. Elliot wrote, “Glad to get the opportunity to preach the gospel of the matchless grace of our God to stoical, pagan Indians. I only hope that He will let me preach to those who have never heard that name Jesus. What else is better in this life? I have heard of nothing better. ‘Lord, send me!'”
Unfortunately, he and his four associates were killed by the warriors before they could share with them. Jim gave up what he could not keep. He gave up his earthly life to gain what he could not lose: eternal life.
Due to the publicity generated by the martyrdom of the missionaries, thousands of other young men and women committed to missions to take their place. Beyond that, the widows of the martyred missionaries went back to that tribe and led those warriors to Christ.
Years later, a young man traveling in Ecuador flew in a small plane over the country. The pilot knew of Jim Elliot’s ministry.
“When we fly over the place where Jim Elliot and the others died, show me,” the man said to the pilot.
“I can’t take you there,” replied the pilot.
“Because Jim Elliot did not die in Ecuador.”
Perplexed, the young man remarked, “Yes, I know Jim Elliot died here in Ecuador.”
“Jim Elliot’s body died in South America,” the pilot said, “but Jim Elliot died while a college student at Wheaton College several years before when he yielded his life to God no matter the consequences.”
May this brick help you to think about what it really means to die to self and to live for Christ; to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus.