Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man 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: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.Matthew 16:24-27
And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, 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? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.Mark 8:34-38
Now, we can see one of the reasons why Jesus rebuked Peter openly in front of the rest of the disciples. Our Savior links His duties as Savior to our duties as His disciples.
Many teach that if you just follow Jesus your life will be easy, all your troubles will go away, and you will have all the riches you can imagine. This is all a lie. Jesus says this is “Savoring the things of man rather than the things of God.” Further, Jesus says to be His disciple, we must take up our cross. This implies a life of servitude and suffering. This does not mean that there is no joy in the service of the Lord. It means that the true source of joy is not found in anything here on earth. In fact, the things of this earth are actually working against us in our pursuit to find true joy!
Jesus gives the example of exchanging our souls for the things of this world. I think He is speaking somewhatmetaphorically because no man has ever or will ever gain the entire word. Also, what can we give in exchange to secure our soul’s place in heaven? Nothing. Further, we know that the Bible teaches that our salvation is secure in the finished work of Jesus Christ, not in our ability to always choose the right path.
So what does Jesus mean in this passage?
Our true identity is that we are the elect of God. Notice what Paul says to the Colossians:
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.Colossians 3:2-3
Our true identity is not found in our earthly occupations, hobbies, strengths, or interests. Our true life is hid in Christ. We will not ultimately know our true selves until the Lord returns but we can get a better understanding of our true self by being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that our will does not matter. We must have the attitude that our lives are to be lived according to the will of God whether that is in joy or pain, or in peace or suffering.
The last phrase of these verses is difficult for me to explain. So, please grant me liberty to explain as best I can. When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, the elect will have the righteousness of Christ counted to them and receive glory for all eternity. This blessing is not based upon their works or merit. That being said, any who never desired to do the will of God show evidence that they are probably not among the elect of God. It think this last phrase we have before is explained best by the next verse in the gospel account. The coming under consideration will occur while at least some of these men are still alive. This cannot be the 2nd coming of the Lord at the end of time. Therefore, I think we can interpret this is some form of timely chastisement.
However, we interpret the judgment portion of this passage does not change the weight of the language of the rest of the passage. To be a disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ we must be willing to follow God’s will no matter what. We must understand that our lives are not our own and we may be called to suffer for Christ’s sake. This is not easy but it is a clear assurance to us that if we suffer like Christ, we will raise from the dead to be with Him forevermore (2nd Timothy 2:10a)!