“Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:34-37
We were made by God, for God. He made us to be with Him. The original sin that has infected the very DNA of all mankind was a choice to be independent from God.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good from evil.” Genesis 3:1-5
Ever since that fateful choice, to separate from God and do the one thing that He forbid, we descendants of Adam and Eve have been broken at our most basic level: Who do we live for? Every problem on earth stems from this. We are all so lost that there is no hope of any of us finding our way home outside of Jesus’ intervention with the ransom for our sin and His Spirit to lead us to the Father. There is no other Way.
Unfortunately, the inclination of sin, to be for ourselves and not for God, often leaves us in this illogical place: I want Jesus to forgive my sin and save me from hell, but I still want to be for me, to live my life my way. This doesn’t work. Independence from God IS hell.
Read the excerpt from Mark 8 again. The usual summary of this passage is that following Christ is costly, that you must give up everything to follow Him. This is true in a sense. It really does require the whole of you. You really must lose your life to save it. But the idea of the costliness of the choice, and the reluctance to do so, only makes sense when you hold that your life is worth something compared to that which you would gain. If my life, as defined and directed by me, seems very precious to me, and the life Christ offers, as defined and directed by Him, is of uncertain worth, then I will never give myself to Him. In that light, what He demands is unreasonable and well, frankly, unloving.
If, however, I recognize that my life, as defined and directed by me, is worth precisely nothing and that separated from Him, I am in hell already, then there really is no cost involved at all. I give nothing to gain everything. Rather than being unreasonable, instead it is a relief. Rather than leaving everything behind, instead I come back to all that was lost. Rather than being a heavy command, instead it is a fantastic opportunity. It all depends on how you view yourself and how you view Him.