Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” – Luke 9:23-25
What in the world does it mean to daily take up our cross and to lose our life for Him? What does it mean to forfeit our very selves? In today’s time and culture, how do we know if we’re being a true disciple? These are important questions, and if we’re asking them honestly, then we’re on the right path.
One of the very first steps in learning to spend ourselves is to be open to asking difficult questions. Every culture has its idols, which are the most common things that distract and take the place of God in people’s hearts. In our culture, one idol we must face if we want to consider “denying ourselves” is the need for more. In our effort as a society to achieve success (popularity and wealth), most of us own more than our fair share of stuff. We’ve all heard stories of rich and famous people who are very unhappy, but somehow most of us keep reaching for that same “success” anyway.
Even though Jesus talked so much about money and materialism in the Scriptures we read, many Christians never realize that this is an idol in our culture. We want more, but our hearts may truly need less. If we start by letting go of this idol, we will go a long way toward following Jesus into a life that contributes to His Kingdom.
Research: How Do I Fit?
Today we’re starting to get practical. Choose one organization that you’re going to volunteer with or donate to. Learn exactly what that process looks like. If you’re donating, are you going to give a one-time gift or are you going to set up regular donations? Many organizations have different areas you can donate to; which one do you want your money to go to? If you are volunteering, look into the prerequisites for donating your time. Do you have to go through an orientation? Do you need to fill out any paperwork or make an appointment to volunteer? Make sure you have all the information you need to prepare to spend yourself well.
Activity: Laying Down Our Idols
Today’s challenge might be harder than you think: take the whole day and don’t engage with any media. That means no social media, no TV or movies, and no music. Take the time you would normally spend on those things to pray, or just to focus on the task or people at hand. Anytime it feels hard, think about the ways you may rely on media to keep you entertained or distract you. How might you be idolizing those things? Even if it feels like too strong of a word, consider when and why you get on your phone or computer. Are you trying to ignore negative feelings? Are you just bored? Consider how you might turn to God in times of need, as small as that need might be.