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Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone 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, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew xvi. 24-26
If we were making a tier list of Jesus’ hardest sayings, this would be near the top of the list. His wisdom he shares here, the truth he proclaims right here, go so against the founding assumptions that give shape to our modern life. 

So if what Jesus is saying rubs you the wrong way, that’s actually a very normal and understandable response. Because Jesus is challenging a deep mistake woven into the fabric of our souls by cultural assumptions that have misunderstood the meaning and purpose of human life. 

The culture we inhabit trains us to attempt to control every aspect of our human experience. 

We are afraid of dangers in the world so we purchase alarm systems and train our bodies with the latest martial arts.

We are afraid of not having enough so we train ourselves to be masters of the market and lavish attention on our finances. 

We watch our eating, work out, spend on creams and oils for a body destined to die. But if we can stave off the clues that we grow old, then we might persuade ourselves to believe we are in control. 

And we’re not. 

We never were. 

Many of you know that harms can reach us no matter how much we try to prevent them. 

No matter how well we read the market, we can still lose all our savings.

And no matter how much kale we force into our bodies, we still age, we grow sick, and we die. 

Jesus is trying to wake us up to an essential truth that we so desperately try to cover up. We aren’t in control. And if we inhabit modes of thinking and living that enhance the delusion of control, they’re messing us up. 

Here’s the unpopular truth: there has only ever been one person who was in control. 

He’s the only one who never had to fear sickness and death, and yet Jesus came to us as a human, lived our human lives and showed us how to live it right.

Jesus didn’t seek greater control over his circumstances. In all things he simply lived the life God called him to live. 

He didn’t desperately hold onto his life at the expense of God or others, he gave it up to God to do as God willed. 

For only God is the one who is in control, and the one we should follow and live for. 

And that’s why when he lost his life on the cross, it didn’t stay lost. For death is not the master.

Jesus was raised to new life, and if we follow him, then all that we seemingly lose is found in him.

That’s not just a pie in the sky, life after death insurance. You losing the grip of control over your life that you don’t even have is the best thing for you because you release yourself from a delusion that is severely hurting you.

But if you trust in Jesus, you’re beginning to live a life the way it is meant to be lived.

You’ll find that in truly trusting Jesus, your finances, personal safety, even the fact of death won’t steal your sleep at night because although you don’t know what tomorrow holds you will know who holds tomorrow.

Meaning and purpose are found in the call God has placed on your life, and a life lived in mission to what actually matters can weather any storm.

Because nothing can be taken away from you that can’t ultimately be found again in Jesus, the one who has mastered death and whose life is the true pattern for a life honestly and well lived.