And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”Luke 9:23–25
This expression “whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” is rich with meaning. It is also extremely subjective. What I mean by that is denying oneself looks different for everyone. I have my own personal temptations/ vices, and you have yours. So, techniques or strategies that I use to take up my cross may look different from the ones you need or use. Now, there are others who do share your struggles, or theirs may overlap with yours to an extent, but it is up to you to discover what changes you need to make to deny yourself.
First, a few passages of what this looks like and then a personal example.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3–8
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34–35
This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.John 15:12–13
Wow. What would the world look like if Christians talked more about these verses than the typically popular sins we address? Would those sins even be an issue? Maybe, but would they be as much of an issue as they are? I doubt it. If we spent more time crucifying ourselves than casting stones at others what a world it would be!
So, what does all this mean? Yes, it is talking about one’s physical needs, but it is also a command to be selfless in terms of others’ spiritual needs. For example:
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.Romans 14:1
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.Romans 14:13–14
So, losing our life can mean giving up on an opinion we hold in order to accommodate someone who is still learning for the purpose of maintaining unity. This is a major challenge for those of us trained that being right is the most important thing!
This is where I come to my own struggle. I love, love, love talking about prophecy, and I’ve shown in my articles how this view of the text can have amazing implications for the world.
But, let’s be honest: this is a minority view. In fact, it probably will be for at least the near future. So, what should we do? Not teach it at all? No. But I don’t think we should force it down people’s throats that aren’t ready for it.
That doesn’t mean we stop teaching, debating, etc., but it does mean that I, personally, ought to let go of the need to force it upon visitors at church or those who aren’t able or willing to discuss the subject. The greatest argument preterism has is time. As more failed predictions come and more and more people become disgruntled with the inconsistencies in their view of the end times, they will look for alternative explanations. As the expression “at hand” loses its meaning, more will search for answers. And we will be here when they are ready.
As you probably know from experience, you can’t really teach someone preterism; they have to be willing to study it themselves on their own time (I realize this is not universally true). It requires so much rewiring and rethinking that one has to be willing to genuinely listen before they can even begin to consider. It is so different from what we’ve been taught, that some may never see it our way. But you and I are here for them when they are ready, and we need to lead the charge in reminding them that, regardless of whether or not they agree, we are all brothers in sisters in Christ, no more and no less.
Lose your life to save it.
What happens when you make this kind of sacrifice?
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Philippians 2:9–11
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.James 4:10
The word exalted, or lifted up, is used in a variety of ways, but check out these three passages:
And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!Luke 10:15
Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.Acts 2:33
He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.Acts 5:31
I know this is reading a bit too much into it, but exaltation seems to carry with it, in very specific contexts, the idea of resurrection/ ascension. So, when we take up our cross, deny ourselves, and humble ourselves, we receive life from God. We become less dependent upon ourselves for happiness, life, and peace and more dependent upon God.
In this way, it is almost as if we become living, miniature atonements for those around us when we allow God to command His love towards others through us:
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:6–8
Perhaps through losing our lives, we will be able to reach even more people. Especially when they see resurrection on the other side through our own example.
Lose your life to save it. Take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Him.