What would you give up in order to gain your life?
In the movie Wonder Woman 1984, Diana (aka Wonder Woman) makes a wish on an ancient artifact, the Dreamstone, which is said to grant the holder whatever they desire. Diana’s wish is to have her old flame, Steve, brought back to her from the dead. Her wish comes true, and it doesn’t disappoint. It brings her incredible happiness; life seems wonderful and complete. It’s everything she could have hoped for.
But later in the movie, something odd starts to happen. Wonder Woman starts to notice her powers declining. Where once she could push tanks with the power of her legs, now she struggles to not be crushed by them. Where once she had the speed to dodge bullets, now they are grazing her shoulder and wounding her.
There comes a scene near the end of the movie where she realizes that her wish is holding her back, causing her to quickly lose her power. Diana and Steve both realize that she must let him go—renounce her wish. But Diana doesn’t want to. She knows it is the right thing to do (she has a world to save after all), and she knows that if she doesn’t, she will be useless. Her wish will slowly kill her or get her killed. But the choice is still one of the hardest she has ever had to make.
The audience can see the intense internal struggle Diana has as she mourns the thought of letting him go, never seeing him again, never loving again. After giving him one more kiss, she reluctantly makes her choice and turns to go. They both declare they will always love each other, and then she says these turning-point words: “I renounce my wish.”
A guttural scream erupts from the tsunami of emotions and pain she is battling inside as she begins to run with all her might in the opposite direction of her love. It is only then that her bloody wounds start to heal, as she picks up immense speed and lassos herself into the sky. It is only then that she learns how to fly.
What about you and me? What is holding us back from living out our fullest potential in Christ? What is keeping us from having the fruitful, abundant, and sanctified life God has called us to?
Is there something we have wished for, longed for, or obtained that has taken God’s place in our hearts—that we want more than God himself? Is there a sin we are so entangled in that brings us so much pleasure we are not willing to give it up for God?
Jesus is clear about this in the Gospel of Mark:
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?’” (Mark 8:34-37, emphasis added)
What will we gain from the things of this world we won’t let go of? Momentary pleasure? Worldly wealth? Finite fame? What does the Bible say we will lose if we don’t release our grip on it? Our very souls.
Friends, there can be nothing in this whole world that is worth losing your soul—spending an eternity in hell under the just and deserved wrath of God. We must be willing to forsake all in order to gain Christ and be found in him when he returns or we take our last breath, whichever comes first.
Christ said we must deny ourselves in order to follow him, whether it be denying ourselves of “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, [or] things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21a), as Paul spoke. Paul continues, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21b). If we are not willing to forsake the things that keep us from Christ, then we are in very grave danger.
This may sound extreme. How is a little sin going to hurt us so much? In Diana’s case, wasn’t she just wanting love? There’s nothing bad about that, right?
Obviously, it is a movie, so our analogy breaks down. But the point is that anything we desire with our whole being, that impacts every decision we make, that turns the course of our days, that sucks up all our time, energy, money, health, or thoughts is something that keeps our eyes off God and keeps us from worshipping and serving him rightly. It is an idol—something we want more than God and have allowed to take the place of God in our life.
Whenever we cling to the things of this world, we cannot be fruitful. Our sin holds us back. Our sin drains us of strength. Our sin is slowly killing us.
Psalm 1 paints the picture of a person not entangled in sin being like a tree firmly planted by abundant streams of water. We can imagine the contrast of someone who is entrapped by their sin—they are withering, barren. Not only do their branches not bear fruit, they are rotting and wasting away. If they continue along this trajectory, they may find that they were never truly planted near the Fountain of Living Water and never had the spring of eternal life welling up inside of them (John 4:14).
Christ is clear about anything that puts us in that kind of position:
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:43-48)
Will forsaking our sin hurt? Yes. But it is supposed to hurt. Christ compares it to the pain of ripping out an eye or amputating a limb. There will be blood; it will be messy; you will feel like you are not okay. It may be one of the hardest things you have ever done. But do not despair—although the pain is not abnormal, Christ promises it will not be more than you can bear as long as he is the one holding you up (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that the pain will not compare to the eternal weight of glory being produced in us (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Christ also promises that anyone who leaves houses or lands or families for his sake will gain “a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30). If we forsake all we have, all that we hold dear, in order to gain Christ, not only will we experience his blessing in this life and be fruitful, but we will gain eternal life in heaven, where there will be no more crying, death, or pain, but “God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).
The apostle Paul testified to the surpassing worth of forsaking all for Christ:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-9a, 11)
When we are not willing to forsake what we consider gain in this world for having Christ, it is like choosing to play in mud huts made of manure when we could be living in gold palaces.
What about you?
Do you see the surpassing worth of Christ?
Is he more valuable to you than anything else in this world?
Would you sell the field in order to gain the pearl of great price?
Could you throw everything else out like filthy garbage in order to gain Christ and be found in him on the last day?
Could you run away from it at breakneck speed and never look back? Would you do whatever it takes to obtain the “resurrection from the dead”?
If not, I ask you: Why? What is holding you back? What do you have such a tight grip on in this world (or what has such a tight grip on you) that Christ is not worth releasing it for? What do you need to forsake in order to gain Christ and live fully for him? I pray that you would not lose your life in the world to come because you wanted to save the life you have in this world.