Luke 9:23, 24
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
These strong and sententious words may teach us three truths which are of vital importance to us.
I. THAT THE VOLUNTARY SURRENDER OF OUR LIFE TO GOD IS OUR ENTRANCE UPON LIFE INDEED, What is it for a man to live? We speak truly but superficially when we say that any one is a living man from whom the breath of life has not yet departed. But there is deep truth in the objection of our English poet, "As though to breathe were life." Human life, as its Divine Author regards it, means very much more than this. And, taught of Christ, we understand that we then attain to our true life when we live unto God, in his holy service, and for the good of those whom he has committed to our care. The thoughts of sinful men concerning life are utterly false; they are the exact contrary of the truth. Men imagine that just as they gain that which will minister to their own enjoyment, and keep that which, if parted with, would benefit other people, they make much of their life. This is not even a caricature of the truth; it is its contradiction. The fact is that just as we lose ourselves in the love of God, and just as we expend our powers and possessions in the cause of mankind, we enter upon and enjoy that which is the "life indeed." For all that is best and highest lives, not to gain, but to give. As we pass from the lowest of the brute creation up an ascending line until we reach the Divine Father himself, we find that the nobler being exists, not to appropriate to himself, but to minister to others; when in our thought we reach the Divine, we see that God himself is receiving the least and is giving the most. He finds his heavenly life in giving freely and constantly of his resources to all beings in his universe. This is the supreme point that we can attain; we surrender ourselves entirely to God, to be possessed and employed by him; we enter upon and we realize the noble, the angelic, the true life. Whosoever will save his life by retaining his own will and withholding his powers from his Redeemer, by that very act loses it; but whosoever will freely surrender his life to God and man will, by that very act, find it. To live is not to get and to keep; it is to love and to lose ourselves in loving service.
II. THAT THE FULL SERVICE OF CHRIST MEANS HABITUAL SELF-DENIAL.
1. It means the abandonment of all that is vicious; i.e. of all that is positively hurtful to ourselves or others, and treat, as such, is condemned of God as sinful.
2. It means the avoidance of that which is not unlawful in itself, but which would be a hindrance to usefulness and the service of love (see Romans 14.). Of the rightness and desirableness of this, every man must be a judge for himself, and no man may "judge his brother." That life must be a narrow one which does not afford scope for the frequent forfeiture of good which might lawfully be taken, but which, for Christ's sake, is declined.
3. It involves struggle and sacrifice at the first, but the sense of personal loss is continually declining, and the consciousness of Divine approval is a counterbalancing gain.
III. THAT TO SECURE ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS IT MAY BE NECESSARY TO LAY DOWN OUR MORTAL LIFE. Many are they who have been called upon to put the most literal interpretation on the twenty-fourth verse; who have had to choose between parting with everything human and earthly on the one hand, and sacrificing their fidelity to Christ and their eternal hopes on the other hand. For that hour of solemn crisis the Lord has granted abounding grace, and from every land and age a noble army of martyrs have made the better choice, and now wear the crown of life in the better land. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.