In preparation for one of the kids talks I was reminded of the importance of not only saying I follow Jesus, but showing I follow Jesus. Key to this is Christ’s call to discipleship in Mark 8:34 – If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

This is much more counter-cultural than we think. It flies in the face of my right to have my voice heard, getting credit for what I do, or deserving respect for what I’ve built. Pride in a nutshell. Yet this is the way of the world, a subtle, insidious worldview that slowly drowns us if we don’t actively swim against it.

If I don’t fight against it, I begin to feel underappreciated or resent choices I’ve made. Instead, I’ll slowly but surely forget biblical humility and justify why I deserve what I have. I’ll look down on people who aren’t successful in the world’s eyes. I’ll spend more time judging others than dislodging the plank in my own eye.

According to the world, denying myself is utterly foolish, for where has that led me? Instead of sitting in a plush office overlooking the Melbourne CBD I’m cutting and pasting figures for kids’ crafts.

Yet the Lord Jesus in Mark 8:34 tells me otherwise. Denying myself is how I follow him. Denying myself is is the only way to eternal life. Denying myself means I am a slave. The marketing firms will tell you this is a sure way to kill your brand.

But the upside to denying myself is exponential. Instead of being seduced by capitalism and materialism, I’m reminded that I get the great privilege of teaching young people about Christ. Instead of investing in temporary wealth, kids who follow Christ is investment in eternal wealth. What a way to change the whole paradigm – no longer is it grinding in a dog-eat-dog world, fighting to get a piece of the pie, but following Christ means enlarging the pie so that all may eat at his banquet!

Denying oneself is not photogenic nor is it marketable. But then again neither is being cruficied for crimes you didn’t commit. Christ’s call to discipleship is counter-cultural and looks foolish. Yet it is the way of God, the creator of the universe. Let’s encourage one another to live a life of self denial in service to the Lord Jesus.