“I want to know one thing – the way to heaven,” John Wesley stated. And I’m with him. You are too, I’m certain. The old song title directs us: The Way of the Cross Leads Home.
Heaven, believing, and the cross – each of these is a “whosoever” invitation. Jesus says, “If any will come after Me…” Everyone may come. And no one is forced to come. AW Tozer put it this way: “Each one decides which way his soul will go. One decides, and hell enlarges itself. Another chooses, and a new mansion goes up in heaven. Each decides whether he will accept or ignore the Voice of invitation to the cross.”
Do you have a few minutes? Grab your Bible and let’s dig into Mark 8:34-36 together. This is Jesus speaking. He said, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Jesus died, once for all, and we, too, are called to die. “’Tis either Christ or selfish I – what shall my answer be? Let self be crucified that Christ alone might live in me!”
Paul put it this way in 1Corinthians 1:9, “We have been called into the fellowship of God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord” – the fellowship of the cross.
The fellowship of the cross is an intentional journey with Jesus, a voluntary taking up of our cross, a willing death to self, and a purposeful pursuit of a life lived for God. We’ve been adopted, chosen, and delivered out of darkness into His glorious light, redeemed out of slavery to sin into the glorious freedom in which we are enabled to live above sin, joint-heirs with Jesus. We’re royalty, holy, and, Peter adds, peculiar. Marked as saints. Through the fellowship of the cross, the way that leads home to heaven. Because the servant is not greater than her Master.
Look again at verse 35 in Mark 8: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Jesus uses the word save twice. The meaning in the Greek is the same in both uses: to preserve, rescue, protect; to escape safe.
The difference is in the losing. Whoever protects her life and escapes safe, saving herself by personal choice, from the cross, loses. And loses, here in the Greek, is the act of forfeiting what is of greatest value – losing or penalizing oneself with spiritual and eternal loss.
Then comes Jesus’ stirring question in verse 36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” If we forfeit what is of greatest value – our ever-living, never-dying soul – to spiritual and eternal loss, what is our profit?
A W Tozer expressed that loss in these haunting words: “The man who dies out of Christ is said to be lost, and hardly a word in the English tongue expresses his condition with greater accuracy. He has squandered a rare fortune, and at the last he stands for a fleeting moment and looks around, a mortal fool, a wastrel who has lost in one overwhelming and irrecoverable loss, his soul, his life, his peace, his total, mysterious personality, his dear and everlasting all.”
The second use of lose in verse 35 – “whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s” – is a loss actively incurred, a loss by choice.
There is a beautifully painted portrait of this use of the word lose – a loss actively, willingly, incurred – in Philippians 3:3-11. Please take time to read of the Apostle Paul’s taking up his cross, actively incurring loss, counting all as loss, choosing Jesus and the gospel over his stature and standing as a Pharisee.
And we know of Jim Elliot’s statement that affects us so deeply: “He is no fool who is willing to lose what he cannot hold in order to gain what he cannot lose,” a statement made the more powerful because he lived and died what he believed.
Do we understand exactly what it means when we choose to take up our cross and follow Jesus? Do we hesitate because we don’t understand what it means to take up our cross? Let’s sit together at the feet of a great man of God and let him explain to us exactly what we’re looking at. A W Tozer tells us “that we should count ourselves dead indeed to sin and self and alive to Christ, then accept willingly whatever of repentance, self-denial, humility, and sacrifice that may be found in the path of obedient daily Christian living which is the resurrected Christ-life. That – obedient daily Christian living – is the cross we choose, and it is the only one the Lord has invited us to bear.”
Our cross is our daily obedience to the known will of God. Obedience to the call of God into fellowship with His Son, walking as Jesus walked. The way of the cross leads home. The prize is worth the price.
1 Timothy 1:17