If we save our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life for Jesus' sake and the Gospel’s we will save it. Jesus referred to this spiritual concept in all four of the Gospels. 

"And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." - Matthew 10:38-39

"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" - Mark 8:34-37

"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" - Mark 8:34-37

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?" - Luke 9:23-25

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." - John 12:24-25

All four of these passages of Scripture are strong statements and difficult to be comprehended by the natural mind of man. But as we humble ourselves and cry out for understanding, God shines the glorious light of His truth into our hearts. Jesus is most certainly not telling us to self-destruct, commit suicide, or turn on ourselves with self-loathing or hatred. Instead, He is saying that if we want to really be a disciple of Jesus, then we must lose our own personal identity that we gain from peoples' opinions about us, and be absorbed into His identity. We should get our identity from Him and not from the world. 

When the word life is used in the Scriptures above, God is referring to our psyche. It denotes our identity, our personality, our soul, or our selfhood. These Scriptures beg us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: “Who am I? What is my identity or from whom do I get my identity?"

Most people gain their identity from their achievements or successes in life, which are usually defined from their careers or their relationships with their spouse, families, or friends. I know that I personally spent several years trying to be a successful businessman, and I kept score by how much money I made. The more I made, the more I thought I was worth, and the more I thought people would like me or look up to me. As my business grew, so did my false identity grow in my own mind. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we were not created to make money or to win peoples' admiration. We were created to give God glory and honor. No matter how much success I found in the world, it never made me happy, nor did it satisfy. 

Then without realizing it, I shifted from finding my identity in the business world to the religious world. The religion to which I belonged was a performance-based religion, and the harder I worked at being successful within the religion, the greater my identity grew in my mind. It has lots of rules and regulations that I tried with all of my might to keep and adhere to. I tried to demonstrate faithfulness to attend services and tried to have a stellar reputation and track record. I attempted to be the best student possible by learning all of the mysteries and the secret knowledge of the elect. The religion taught that the higher I climbed the greater reward I would have in eternity. The problem with this is that God never wanted our identity to be in religion or in materialism. Instead, He wants us to find our identity in Christ Jesus. 

The Apostle Paul wrote a little verse in the book of Colossians that contains a great secret of life. 

"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." - Colossians 3:3

If we will die to the false, idolatrous identities, die to people-pleasing, die to our selfish ambitions and dreams, then we actually can gain a new identity in Christ Jesus. With this new identity, I am no longer identified by the standards of the world, or what they consider to be successful. But now my identity is found only in Jesus, and it is hid with Christ in God. No longer will I be trying to make a name for myself to try to gain man's respect or honor, but now I will only be concerned with the Name of Jesus and making sure that He gets all the respect, honor, and glory possible from my life.

If we can learn to lose our life in Christ Jesus, we can find it. But notice that the Bible doesn’t say that we should try to find our identity in God. Instead, He tells us to lose our life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel's. 

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it" - Mark 8:35

Simply trying to find identity in God without going through the Son of God is a vain and shallow attempt to right things on your own, because God is too abstract. All religions teach you about God. But here the Word of God is clear that we are to lose our life for Jesus’ sake and the Gospel’s sake. This is diametrically different from just having an identity based upon God, because a God-based identity will more than likely turn into you being a part of a religion that teaches about knowing God and living for God instead of meeting God face to face through Jesus Christ. Only by experiencing God through the only Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, can we find His transforming love and grace. For the only real way to know God is through Jesus, for He is the only Ladder between heaven and earth. And only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

I’m not saying that religion is all bad, but I am saying that religion can’t save you, and religion can’t fill your heart with love, and religion can’t change or transform you. Only Jesus can do that. 

If we just swap our performance-based, materialistic, idolatrous identity for another performance-based religious, idolatrous identity, then we are going to suffer the same misery, as neither can satisfy the longings of our hearts. What’s the difference if I am trying to make money so that people will admire or like me, versus if I am trying to live a good life, trying to be a good student and a good minister so that people will admire or like me? Both are based on people being pleased with my life. Therefore, I am allowing people to determine my identity. That is a path leading to nowhere because if the money runs out or as I get older and can no longer minister to people, then their opinion or perception of me will change and so will my identity. 

Instead of forming an identity based upon what people think of me, I can find my identity in only what God thinks about me, if I am willing to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus. Jesus went to the cross to die for my sins, to pay my ransom, to be my substitutionary Sacrificial Offering because He loves me. As I look upon Jesus and His love, it motivates me to draw near to Him. The only way to really become near to Him or to become one with Him is to follow Him to the cross and crucify my selfish desires and my idolatrous identity and be absorbed into His identity. 

Now I no longer want to be looked upon as a successful businessman, or a religious leader, or a minister, or a Longhorn rancher. Instead, when people see me, I want them to see Jesus. I want His light to shine so brightly from my heart that people cannot even see me, but instead see only Him. I want my cup of self to be totally poured out so that the Spirit and the Word of God will fill my cup of life to where it will be spilling over to all that I come into contact with. 

If my life is hid with Christ in God, then I no longer have my own personal identity. Now I am what God says I am instead of what the world thinks I am. Now, through Jesus, I am a child of God; I am a Christian; I am a part of the Body of Christ. I am forgiven, and I am made righteous by the Blood of the Lamb. I am justified; I am made holy, and I desire to wear His Name on my forehead. I want His Nature flowing from my heart, and I want my entire mission and purpose to be to give Him the glory, honor, respect, and obedience that He so deserves. I live for an audience of one, Jesus Christ. The only two hands that I want to applaud my life are His two nail scared hands. At the end of life’s journey, it is Jesus, my Creator and Redeemer, to whom I will give an account for my every thought, word, and deed. So why wouldn’t I want my entire identity wrapped up in Him? 

If our identity is found in Christ Jesus, then it will not matter what the world thinks about us, for we will no longer be hoping and longing for acceptance and respect from people. We will boldly speak the truth even if we suffer persecution for it; we will be witnesses for Jesus and share the Gospel with all that God brings in our paths. If we suffer persecution for doing the right things, then it will be a joy to suffer for His Name’s sake. This will be possible only if we have died to the applause of man and only seek our approval and validation from Jesus. 

The Bride of Jesus Christ shall willingly give up her name in order to take on His Name. She will lay down her will and willingly submit to His will, and she will give up her identity and gladly be absorbed into His identity. 

Think about some of the times that God changed someone’s name in the Bible. Abram was changed to Abraham. Abram means "high father," but Abram was a man of faith, for he believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. God changed his name to Abraham, which means "Father of multitudes." 

Jacob wrestled with God, and God changed his name to Israel. Jacob was a "heel catcher" as he was determined in the womb of his mom not to let Esau steal his birthright. But Israel means “he will rule as God." Or, as it says in Genesis 32:28: "…for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed." 

When Jesus first met Simon, Jesus beheld him and said, "...Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas,…" (John 1:42). Cephas means "a stone or a rock." Jesus knew how wishy-washy or fickle Peter would be, but He looked beyond Simon Peter's humanity and saw Peter transformed one day. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Jesus is in the name-changing business, for that is what He went to the cross to do for us. He desires to change our natures, our identities, from the selfish performance-based identities defined for us by the world, to the humble, loving, merciful nature of Jesus Christ, which only Jesus can give us.

Think about it. If you find your life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Jesus’s sake and the Gospel’s sake, then you will find it. Go to the cross and lose your life, and then begin the most glorious, most satisfying, most fulfilling and most rewarding journey possible for a human being to experience here on the earth. We have only a short time left, so let’s use it wisely as we seek to find our identity in Jesus and Jesus alone. 

Bill Hudson

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