"If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake wills save it."
I remember reading this passage on a late night in the summer of 2004. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, and it was around this time that God began to overwhelmingly grip my heart with the gospel. God used this passage in a special way to bring me to faith and to convince me of what it meant to be a Christian.
Reflecting on this passage now, I am once again reminded of God's radical call on his disciples. There is no such thing as a nominal Christian. There is no such thing as domesticated disciple. Following Jesus may not cost you your physical life, but it will cost you everything. Growing as a disciple of Jesus means increasingly denying yourself, and increasingly finding your life in him. It is not a half-hearted thing. It's not a both/and. It is either/or. Either you are following Jesus and are living as one of his disciples, or you are not. To most ears, the call to deny yourself, lose your life, and die is a ridiculous call. It is unreasonable. But in the words of my favorite professor, "Reasonableness is one of the greatest enemies of Christian discipleship."
When you let go of yourself and cling solely to Jesus, then there is true life. When you are denying your cross and following Jesus wherever he leads you, then there is true joy. I praise God for gripping my heart in the summer of 2004. It hasn't been easy, but by losing my life, God has saved me and given me true life.