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And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
One of the best books a person can read is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is the German pastor that lead an underground seminary during Hitler's reign of terror. His most well-known quote is
Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
This was his understanding of what Jesus was teaching the disciples, and what Jesus was fully grasping Himself at this time. Jesus knew He had the power to save Himself. When the devil tempted Him in the wilderness, half of the temptations were ways for Jesus to become king of the world without the cross.
Jesus knew that the Father's will was for Him to go to the cross, but He also knew that the end result would be that Jesus would be the king of the world. His temptation to become the king of the world His own way was as real as our daily temptations to become the king of our situation by doing our own will.
Luke quotes this as Jesus putting the word "daily" in there. It really is a daily calling to follow Jesus by doing God's will. When we can get ahead by lying or deceit, we have a chance to die to ourselves. When we can get some satisfaction from judging someone or slandering them so that they are judged in another person's eyes, we have a chance to die to our own will.
When we have a chance to put off the care of others so that we can over-indulge in pleasing ourselves, we are being given a chance to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
I have a friend that used to pray every night before bed, "Lord, show us how to die tomorrow." I used to think it was a crazy thing to pray, but when I read this from Jesus, I can see that God has answered my friend's prayer with 20 years of fruitful ministry, the last 10 of which were in countries that can't be named.
The call to die is really a call to live the abundant life of John 10. The call to follow Jesus and not strive to gain the whole world is not a command but a gift, and few unwrap it.
Today, if you hear His voice, don't harden your hearts (Hebrews 3). Christ is calling you