“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
What Jesus is asking from us is to live our lives in submission to him. To be Jesus’ disciple we have to let him into the driver’s seat of our lives. In a recent sermon, Bible teacher and preacher John Ortberg, compared submission to Jesus to driving a car. He said, “When it was time to take our first child home from the hospital, we put her in the car seat in the back of the car, and then I got in the front seat to drive. She was so small even the baby seat was way too big. She looked so fragile to me that I drove home on the freeway going 35 miles per hour with the hazard lights flashing the whole time.
“That first day, when your kid is in the car with you, is a scary day. Does anybody want to know what the next really scary day is with your kid in the car? It's when they turn 16, and now you're handing over the keys. Now they're moving from the passenger seat, from the ride-along seat, into the driver's seat. That's a scary moment.
“It is a big moment in your life when you hand someone else the keys. Up until now, I've been driving. I choose the destination. I choose the route. I choose the speed. You're in the drive-along seat. But if we are to change seats, if you're going to drive, I have to trust you. It's all about control. Whoever is in the driver’s seat is the person in control.
“A lot of people find Jesus handy to have in the car as long as he's in the ride-along seat, because something may come up where they require his services. Jesus, I have a health problem, and I need some help…. I want you in the car, but I'm not so sure I want you driving. If Jesus is driving, I'm not in charge of my life anymore. If he's driving, I'm not in charge of my wallet anymore. If I put him in control then it's no longer a matter of giving some money now and then when I'm feeling generous or when more of it is coming into my life. Now, it's his wallet. It's scary. If Jesus is driving, I'm not in charge of my ego anymore. I no longer have the right to satisfy every self-centered ambition. No, it's his agenda. It's his life. Now, I'm not in charge of my mouth anymore. I don't get to gossip, flatter, cajole, deceive, rage, intimidate, manipulate, exaggerate. I get out of the driver's seat and hand the keys over to him. I'm fully engaged. In fact, I'm more alive than I've ever been before, but it's not my life anymore. It's his life.” [John Ortberg, "True Freedom," sermon.]
My life is now his life. That’s what Jesus means when he says for us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. What he’s saying is that our lives are no longer ours. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” But the irony of the passage is this: to live I must die; to save my life, I must loose it; to give myself what I really need I must deny myself. That is the counter-intuitive nature of following Jesus. It feels scary to do until I realize that only Jesus knows exactly where I are going and the sure way to get there is to let him drive.
Prayer: Father God, take the keys and be in control. I trust you and know that you have a plan for me that is meant for my best. Help me to live my life in submission to your Son, Jesus. Where he leads me I shall follow for I know he will lead me to you. In Jesus name, amen.