Key verse: Mark 8:34
Big idea: The Son of God demands our all.
Have you ever halfway done something? Sometimes you can get by with it and perhaps sometimes you even should. If every time you clean your house you run a Q-tip over every corner, you will probably find that the place you began is already dirty again. If you are reading a mediocre book or a poorly researched new article, it might not need or deserve your full focus. Yet there are some things that should not be done halfway. You would not find a groom texting as his bride walks down the aisle! If you did, he would not be a groom for long.
Jesus spoke in the most extreme terms about the cost of being His disciple: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." All three parts of His call are tough pills to swallow. First, self-denial is probably the only sin that our culture still recognizes. The sermons we hear during commercial breaks and read on our Twitter feeds all say to indulge ourselves because we're worth it. The idea of wanting something, being able to take it, and choosing not to is anathema to the modern mind. Why would you even consider such a thing? But Jesus knows that our lives are finite. Every time we say "yes" to one thing, we are necessarily saying "no" to something else. If we are going to make room for Christ and His work, we will have to clear some space by denying ourselves.
But if self-denial in the abstract was not bad enough, Jesus tells us that we must take up our cross! The cross was designed by the Romans because the old methods of execution were not painful enough. They wanted something which would frighten people into submission and by all accounts, they found a very successful tool. The criminal was stripped naked and nailed to the cross where their feet were just above the ground, so people could read the charges above their head, and mock them as they passed. Two millennia of thinking of a cross as a decoration or piece of jewelry have desensitized us to what Jesus is saying here. If we are going to follow Him, we must walk the same path He walks. It is a path of pain, shame, and ultimately death. If we are going to be Jesus' disciple, that is where He is leading us.
The final one may be the most painful of all: "follow me." If we are a disciple of Christ, our life is no longer our own to go where we want when we want. We go where He goes. As obvious as it seems, the cost of being a disciple is that we have to be disciples. But the joy is that if we go where He has been we will join Him at the destination and "so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Discussion idea: Throughout much of history, self-denial was considered an important part of maturity. Do you think that is still true in most people's minds today? Why or why not?
Prayer focus: Ask God to help you to keep your eyes on Him, despite the distractions that try to keep us from following Him.