In the Gospels, Jesus called his disciples to live for him, to die to themselves, and to be radically different than the world around them. This can be seen in places like Mark 8:34 where Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (ESV). This same statement is also recorded in Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23. Two verses after this, Jesus challenges the crowds and his disciples with a question by asking, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, ESV).
Jesus’ teaching in this section of Mark is difficult and if we are honest it is convicting. Jesus calls us to have total allegiance to him. He calls us to give up all of the shiny things that this world has to offer and trust with all of our hearts that he is what we really need.
What does this kind of allegiance look like? It looks like seeking God’s kingdom over our own and it looks like being holy, even when that is not the popular thing to do. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples not to be anxious about the things they need. He then said, “But seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33a). God’s concern and call for his people has always been to be a people who is holy (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). It also looks like loving God and others more than anything else; these are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). As if this were not enough Christians are also called to be people who love our enemies and even pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48).
In all of these things and many, many more teachings like these, Jesus calls his followers to live a life that is God-centered in the midst of a world that beckons each of us to be me-centered. It is often easier to live lives of me-centered convenience than to put God’s kingdom principles first by loving him and loving others. When it seems tempting to focus on your own kingdom remember that the “treasure” of this world will eventually rust and be moth-eaten (Matthew 6:19-20). But the treasure that the Christian strives for is imperishable (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Peter 1:4).
Here are some questions to help you think about living for God:
Do you think more about your own kingdom or God’s kingdom? When you think about what will bring you joy and happiness is it the things of this world?
How are you loving and serving others in a way that is glorifying to God?
Does the way that you talk about others show your love for them?
Do you truly believe that following Christ is better than the things that this world has to offer?
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