Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
"Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?" Thats the way the second verse of the hymn, begins and we remember those words, because they speak to us life is not always perfect there is trouble, and we do face trials and temptations and it is good to be reminded that there is someplace we can turn for grace, mercy, and help in time of need. In such times we turn to our Savior Jesus Christ, and we find hope in his cross wherein we find the promise of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Sometimes the things that Jesus says are heard to hear they raise questions and concerns and so many would rather not heed the words of todays text. For some it is not even a question they might say "Sure I want to go to heaven, but do I really need to follow, or take up a cross?" It is not always easy, some times the words are heard to hear but where could we go? Who else has the words of eternal life? We know that there is only one name given under heaven by which we might be saved and that name is Jesus Christ.
Really, our text is asking a very simple question in all of life, what is the one thing you value most, the one thing you could not live without, the one thing you fear loosing more than anything else what ever that is That is your god!
When out text talks about denying yourself it is talking about idolatry for though it wears many faces its most visible and common face is SELF. The first thing Jesus calls us to do is to give up all the other gods and to fear, love and trust in the one true God above all things. It is not an easy thing we will spend the rest of our life struggling to overcome a myriad different forms of idolatry, truly did Luther say that anyone who could keep the 1st commandment could keep the whole law. And that is the problem, because if we do not fear love and trust in God above all things, it leads into all sorts of other sin.
OK, now that we have seen our sin, where do we find our savior? In the cross! That is why we are to take up our cross that is keep it with us all through life. Remember the sin is idolatry, the solution is to keep God with us always and he comes to us with salvation in the Cross of Christ. It is in Christ that we see our sin. It is in Christ that we receive forgiveness. It is in Christ that we find peace with God. It is in Christ that we have the promise of everlasting life. Because temptation is all around us, and because we sin much daily we need Christ with us all the time. We need Christ with us, and for nothing to separate us from his love, grace, and mercy. It was by his suffer and death that he purchased for us all these things we daily need.
This brings us to a saying you may sometimes hear "We all have our little crosses to bear." This is something that really bothers me for while there may well be trials and temptations everywhere these things do not bring us salvation, the forgiveness of sins or peace with God. In fact, if we dwell on the troubles of life it is not hard for that to turn into idolatry a look at all I have been through certainly I have earned a place in heaven or at the least, paid God back just a bit for what he has done. We are saying that my good works ought to count for something.
And that is what the second half of the verse addresses the problem that when we try to save our life and the key word is - "OUR life" we loose the life that God would give us in Jesus Christ However, when we let go of self, and put all things into Gods hands and leave all things to Gods direction life is ours, as a free gift, in Christ.