"If anyone comes to me and does not hate........ even his own life, he cannot be my disciple", Luke 14:26 Jesus gave us many "hard sayings". He called on those who followed Him to leave all, die to self, carry their cross, give up everything to be a disciple. They are words that cause us great trouble because, other than people like Francis of Assisi, few of us have literally faced the cost of discipleship.
In Saudi Arabia recently a young Saudi was arrested for speaking about Jesus. He was taken to the town square and in the front of the gathered community he was told to give glory to Allah and his prophet Mohammed. In a loud voice he called out, "There is one God Allah, and Jesus is his son." At that instant the executioner cut off his head and the crowd kicked it around the square. This young believer stood his ground and gave the glory to Jesus. His testimony honored us all. Gladly few are called to give such glory.
In my early years as a believer I never quite understood the ramifications of the Biblical doctrine of the sovereign grace of God. I was a pietist, that is, although I knew I was saved in the present through my belief in Jesus, I thought that future blessing was dependent upon my faithful obedience from the moment of my conversion on. This of course made me a legalist. The "hard sayings" of Jesus filled me with great fear. I might be good enough to keep most of the Ten Commandments, but giving up all for Jesus was beyond me. The best I could do was reinterpret Jesus' words so that they weren't as harsh as they sounded. This is called reductionism, a pharisaic way of making the law keepable. I only found freedom from this heresy when I finally realized that Christ has truly given all for me, and it is on His sacrifice that I stand. In Christ I am perfectly secure for eternity.
Yet there is still a sense where we have to die to self. My human self desires to posses all that creation can supply. Yet I have chosen to stand with a "man of sorrows", who, although He enjoyed life (they called Him a "winebibber and glutton") knew well it was but dust awaiting the whirlwind. There is a sense where we stand with Joshua and Israel in the promised land and see before us the abundance of Canaan and the god's of plenty. So each day we have to choose between Baal or Jehovah - the God of affluence or the God of the desert whirlwind. Where does our ultimate satisfaction lie? Where is life? The choice is one or the other. Death in one and life in the other. So with Joshua we have to say "as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."