Luke 9:23-24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my save will save it.”
The God of the universe is the God who declares Himself to His creatures through the unreserved self giving of the cross…so how can we expect to know and love this God–and so have eternal life–if our focus and goal is to preserve ourselves? If God is revealed in self outpouring, we cannot know Him through self-preserving. I think this–the character of God revealed in His impending death (9:21-22)–is what lies at the heart of Jesus’ words here.
If we are marked by a grasping, guarding, in-gathering disposition to keep for ourselves, then we have set ourselves at odds with the character of God and the purpose of reality. That is to say, we likely have not known our Lord and our God as the slain and risen Son and–if nothing changes–we will be cut off from life.
However if, upon knowing our God in the crucified Christ, we are pierced by the glory of His name and so conformed to His image in self-outpouring, self-giving, life-laying-down love, then we will find ourselves in consent with the character of God and His purposes for all things….that is to say, we will find true life.
In His incarnation, death and subsequent resurrection, God the Son declares to us that self-outpouring love is the heart of the universe. And if we have seen and believed in Him, we must not be surprised when self-outpouring is called for from us….whether its the small daily crosses of love that we are called to carry, or the final crucifixion of death into His arms, the Christian’s is a life joyfully “lost” each moment that it might be gained for eternity.
As CS Lewis says at the end of Mere Christianity,
“Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life…Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours…”
May God give us grace to see the self-giving Christ as the most beautiful reality in all the universe and so to be more and more conformed to His image.