Do you have a cross or a picture of a cross in your house? What does the cross stand for?
Some of the things that Jesus taught us are very, very hard. Here’s another one of those very hard things that Jesus said:
Matthew 16:24-26. 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 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?
One of the things that you will have to ask yourself as you grow up is whether or not you want to follow Jesus. This is truly the most important question we can ask ourselves. Why? Because following Jesus is the whole reason we were created by God and alive on earth. And hopefully you have already been thinking about Jesus and what it means to be his follower. Maybe you know that you want Jesus to save you, to forgive your sins and take you to heaven. But do you also want to be his follower?
Have you ever played “Simon Says,” or “Follow the Leader?” In these games you are asked to follow someone else who tells you what to do or where to go. Jesus is our Leader, our Simon. He tells us what to do and where to go. He tells us how to live our life.
So how does Jesus tell us to live?
Jesus tells us to live as cross carriers.
Yes, cross carriers – If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
What does it mean to “take up your cross and follow Jesus?” Well, Jesus explained it by saying that we have to “deny ourselves.” That means that we need to put ourselves second not first. We need to care about others first before ourselves. We need to be willing to share everything, and give, and help, and be kind, and take care of others like we learned yesterday from the Good Samaritan. We need to live “Others First.”
“Others First” was how Jesus lived too, wasn’t it? Jesus loved others so much that he died for them on the cross. And when we know how much Jesus loves us, then we can live for others each day, seeking their good over our own.
And when we choose to “take up our cross” and “follow Jesus” by living for others first, it makes everyone else better, and it makes us better too. Jesus said this is how you “find life.” You see, you can’t be happy by only living for yourself. If you play sports only for yourself, you’ll be a loser. If you become a show off in school, you’ll probably lose all your friends. If you always want your own way, no one will like you and you’ll never be happy.
Jesus knows that the best way to live is Others First. That’s where true J.O.Y. is found – Jesus, then Others, then You.
Because of Jesus we know that God will always do what is best for us.
With Jesus we can put others first just like he did.
DO SOMETHING TOGETHER
Talk about something that you can do together as a family that is “Others First.” Have an “Others First” day in your house where everyone tries to do something to help another person in your family.
OR for older kids – Watch this scene from The Hunger Games where Katniss takes the place of her sister. Talk about how these kinds of self-sacrifice are possible even in little ways every day.
You took up your cross and put me first by dying for my sins. Help me to put you and others first each day too.
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