"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me…For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24–26 NAS95)
In context, Jesus had just corrected Peter for focusing on man’s interests rather than God’s. I’m sure Peter experienced shock at Jesus’ response. I would have. After all, Peter wanted Jesus to live rather than die. Peter thought he had Jesus’ best in mind. Little did he realize his desires severely missed the mark of God’s plans.
When Jesus clarified His words to Peter and his friends, it sounds like sacrifice, like they needed to give something up just as Jesus did in going to the cross. However, if I understand this conversation, it calls me into life in all its fullness, including the proper valuation of the human soul. At the same time, it challenges me to rethink my thinking about all of reality, and especially about the character of the One Who rules.
Peter thought Jesus would agree with him and that his thinking was right. I, like Peter, always think I have the correct perspective. Jesus, though, says I’ve missed truth and reality by miles. Until I can take up my cross, surrender to God’s interests, let go of my perspective, my rationale, my worldview, my heart attachments, I can’t really see the worth of my own soul—and the value God places on it.
My cross showed up in a well-paying job in commercial real estate development. There, God asked, is this the worth of your soul? Is this your valuation of your worth? Money? God pointed out something in my heart that I had a greater attachment to than Him. Through that conversation with God, I gained a radically reorienting perspective. Money lost its grip. God wanted me to see the value He placed on my life, and that value was the life of His Son. He wanted to give me life to the full, which meant I had trust Him even when I don’t understand. I have to trust His goodness in all things future even when I carry severe doubts.
Since then, I have left that job, been to seminary, crossed an ocean, experienced all the contours of ministry, and stepped onto four continents along the way. Some might call that sacrifice, but I call it blessing. I didn’t seek blessing, but God. Little did I realize what His plans would mean. The result has been a rich adventure abounding in the knowledge of Him Who calls and knows the true worth of a soul.
Warmly in Christ,
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise." (Psalms 51:17 NAS95)
What gifts of God have you experienced through what you initially perceived as sacrifice?
What has God revealed to you about Himself through sacrifices you have made to follow Him?