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)
In what sense do some people “save” their own lives, only to lose them? Likewise, how is it that some are willing to ‘lose their lives’, and save them in the process?
To Jesus those who ‘save their own lives’ are those who seek to preserve their standing before the world, by distancing themselves before the reproach of identification with the Lord and Saviour. They are said to have “gained the world” in some way.
Because there is a very real tension between the world and Christ, confessing Christ is a form of repudiation of this world, whether the confessor realizes it or not.The Christian is a testimony against the world. Being baptized is a way of telling the world there is something wrong with it, that it is judged.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.(Hebrews 11:7)
The world is the great rival for the affections of mens hearts. It is the antithesis to the Kingdom of Christ. It’s values consist of the love of self, pride, human autonomy, God rejection, and the deification of man. It is hostile to Christ, his kingdom and claims upon the hearts of men.
When a man becomes a Christian, not only does he receive personal salvation, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life; he also leaves his place in the world. He is said to be “no longer of this world”, and the world recognizes this instinctively. Jesus tells us.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.(John 15:18-19)
It can be painful to step out from the world which hates God, and to take our place with Jesus. This is why many seek to find a middle ground, a way to be christian without incurring the hatred and rejection of the world. This is a very understandable and human tendency but Jesus calls it “Saving your life”.
Trying not to look as bad as those christian “fundamentalists” or those “homophobic haters”, there are many these days who have found a middle way, (or so they think), a way to come across as “compassionate christians”, more “open-minded and sophisticated” than their brethren.
People like the followers of Brian Maclaren, of the Emerging Church movement, who urges the church as a whole to suspend judgment on issues like homosexuality, or like the congregations who are adapting “Chrislam”, the blasphemous union of christianity and Islam, get to look more sophisticated and compassionate before the eyes of the watching world, but they do so at the expense of the Truth.
On the other hand those who “lose their lives” are those who identify with Jesus and His words openly, even though in little or big ways they expose themselves to the reproach of this world.
One example would be the Christians who were and are willing to confess to the truth of the Genesis account of Creation, in the face of so-called “Darwinian science”, with its theory of evolution. In a time when Seminaries, theological universities , major denominations as well as pastors all defected from the Genesis account, so that they wouldn’t look ignorant before the World.
In our day there are many specific issues of the Christian position, which the world contests , such as the exclusivity of the gospel, the God assigned gender roles, the truth about the final eternal punishment,(Hell) and the Propitiation which presupposes the wrath of God.
These are areas where Christians will be tempted to hold on to their life; ie their reputation, standing, regard by the world as being open-minded, sophisticated, and acceptable to the world, by accommodating the World Spirit.
Loyalty to Christ demands that we be willing to lose our lives ; to be willing to unashamedly hold forth every aspect of the gospel, especially those parts of it which the world is currently refuting.