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One of the things I have learned as a preacher is to know the needs of my audience and to address those needs. If my audience were in a country where there was intense religious persecution, I would focus on certain verses of the passage for today. Since we live in a country that allows religious freedom, I am going to focus on only two verses from Matthew 10.34-42.
An Undeniable Truth
The words of Jesus in Matthew 10.39 are absolutely true and unable to be debated. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Some people may want to debate the second part of the sentence, but the first part, “whoever finds his life will lose it,” is universally true. A few examples will make the point.
According to the KSHB Homicide Tracker, there have been 158 homicides in the Kansas City metro area in 2020. In every instance of these tragedies, someone was seeking his or her own self-will. Their self-centered, self-pleasing decisions not only affected the lives of 158 people, but also that of the family and friends of the murdered individuals.
Domestic violence statistics are shocking. On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. The root cause of this abuse is the desire of people to find life on their own terms. Again, self-seeking, self-centered living brings pain to people to whom the words, “I love you,” have been spoken. They may love their intimate partner, but they love their own self-centered life more.
There are nearly two million Internet articles on the subject of selfishness and addiction. My friends in recovery point out that part of their program of sobriety involves contrary action that counters selfish behavior. The addict’s pervasive focus upon self and their own needs, wishes and desires is another example of the truth of Jesus’ words.
If we take a look at our own behavior, we will see that selfishness, self-centered living, and self-seeking has brought us conflict, depression and possibly ill physical health.
God’s World Operates By Laws
The reason why self-centered living creates so much chaos, pain, drama, and death is that we are living contrary to God’s laws. Obviously, the law of gravity must be observed. If someone thinks they can defy the law of gravity and jumps from a tall building, they will suffer injury and potentially death.
There is no greater law in God’s universe than that the selfish, self-seeking, and self-consumed person will not experience life. The above illustrations are striking and intended to get our attention. In each instance people thought they could defy God’s law, but they experienced the pain of learning that they can’t.
Living By Jesus’ Law of Life
In the same verse Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10.39). Let’s suppose for a minute that we actually believe that Jesus’ words are truly a law of the universe and not just a good suggestion. How do we start losing our life for Jesus’ sake, so we can truly find it?
If we want to live by this eternal law of life, we will follow what Jesus said in the preceding verse, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10.38). Two things are involved in doing what Jesus said.
(1) We take up our cross by an act of intentional self-denial.
I know from experience that if I have not surrendered my self-life to Jesus, then my other religious activity will be seriously lacking. My prayers and Bible reading will be ineffective, because the core of my being is not aligned with God. I may perform religious duties, but my service will be an act and not a genuine expression of my life with God.
Paul wrote, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12.1).
Paul had it right. He knew he could not live according to God’s law of life and live for his own self-centered desires at the same time. He calls for us to sacrifice our own selfish and self-focused desires to God as an act of worship.
When the core of self-surrender is right, the second step follows much more easily.
(2) The second thing Jesus said to his followers was to “follow me” (verse 38). This is the basic call that Jesus gives to all of his followers (see Matthew 4.19; 8.22; and 9.9).
In another place Jesus described following him like this, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6.33).
How do we follow Jesus? We say “no” to our own selfish, self-pleasing, self-focused self. We seek his kingdom, that is, the effective reach of his power to be the ruling force in our lives.
If we follow these two steps, we will be aligning our lives with the law of life, according to Jesus. We will know that this truly is the law that bring us life.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving to us the law of life. Please forgive us for disregarding your law of life and pursuing our own selfish and self-centered ways. Please help us to deny ourselves and to begin following your direction in every aspect of our lives.