The Lord told Peter, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
Clearly, belonging to Jesus’ church means more than merely believing in him. Many Christians today “cast a vote for Jesus,” but then they walk away and forget all about his lordship over their lives. Our Lord makes it clear that belonging to him involves living a life of self-denial and taking up a cross. “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38).
Jesus is saying, “If you are in my church, then be prepared to be persecuted and ridiculed if you hunger and thirst after me. And be prepared to deny yourself all fame, acceptance and worldly pleasure-seeking.” The fact is, Christ’s church has never been accepted by the world and it never will be. People will be uncomfortable around you and want to separate from your company. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you … for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).
Jesus shows us the path that leads to true fulfillment: “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). In other words, the only way you will find meaning in life is to be sold out for Jesus. Then you will find true joy, peace and satisfaction. Christ tells us, “When you come to me, you must die to self, to all ungodly ambition and ego. By faith you will be buried with me, but I will raise you up into new life!”
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Only the words of Jesus can produce life and we must consume them as we would food and drink — by daily reading the Word of God and spending time in his presence.