Leaving It All Behind
September 30, 2003 • By Ed Wrather
Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels. - Luke 9:23-26.
My recent hospitalization began suddenly as the onset of my illness was unexpected. Arriving at the emergency room, we were unprepared for a long stay but that was the least of our concerns. When I was transported to a larger hospital in Oklahoma City, my wife hurriedly packed a few things to take with us. During my stay in the hospital, I came to appreciate some of the things I had left behind. When I was finally able to brush my teeth, I did so with a toothbrush the hospital furnished, and it was very flimsy and I was always thinking that it was going to break. The first day I was allowed to take a shower, there was no shampoo but the shower was still wonderful. Of course, there were so many things that were suddenly left behind. Things like the concerns of the pastorate, Internet ministry, so many friends, and unfinished projects. When I arrived finally back home and was able to walk through the house without all the wires and tubes it was a special joy.
In order for us to be a true disciple of Jesus, it is necessary for us to leave some things behind. We must deny ourselves our previous sinful way of life. This may include friends who would drag us down into sin again. It may include places that we know would bring temptation into our lives that would be hard to resist. It may include access to the Internet if we are unable to resist the temptations that are available online. It will include those things that enabled us to sin in the past like drugs, alcohol, memberships, telephone numbers, and a multitude of other things. It is important to leave behind those things that would lead to future sinful behavior (Romans 13:14). Deny yourself and leave them behind.
In order to deny ourselves, we must take up our cross. The cross is an instrument of execution, and we must put our selfish, sinful desires to death. When we have died to self, we will be able to deny ourselves and follow our Lord. To do this we must lose our lives and take on the life of Christ.
Someday we will all face death. Death may come suddenly for some and slowly for others, but it will come at some point. It is important for us to face the reality of this fact. By doing so we can be prepared and our loved ones can be prepared. Someday we will have to leave behind every material thing that we have accumulated over a lifetime. We will also have to leave behind our family and friends at least temporarily. There will be no returning to the physical life we know now at that point.
When we contemplate the leaving of everything here on earth behind for eternity, the words of Jesus have much greater meaning. Jesus says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” Yes, we may gain great wealth and material possessions but of what value are such things when we depart from this life to the next leaving everything behind?