Pastor Jeff Pries of Mariners Church in Irvine, California, said Jesus' teachings on how to be his disciple is among "things I wish Jesus never said."
Pries, who serves as lead pastor of the Ocean Hills branch of Mariners Church – which is one of the largest evangelical churches in America, said that the message found in Matthew 16:24 is especially difficult for Christians to hear, as it means that there are things in life that they must say "no" to in order to say "yes" to Jesus. Matthew 16:24 reads: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'"
This command can mean a painful or difficult decision at times in a Christian's walk of faith with God. Pries says that Jesus is telling us to deny the things we want in exchange for the things Jesus wants. This may mean saying no to a weekend vacation with friends because you know there will be excessive drinking, or saying no to office gossip because you know it would be immoral to participate.
"The reality is, that's just part of the Christian life," Pries says. "Going to church is easy; the hard part is following Jesus."
Although this is evidently what Jesus commands, Pries notes that "our temptation [as humans] is just to avoid – avoid the things that are hard, avoid the things that will make us feel isolated," with many people saying "I wish I could just believe in Jesus and do what I want."
However, Jesus elaborates in Matthew 16:25, when he says: "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it."
As Pries says, Jesus is telling us in this verse that if we follow Him, we will find life in the form of purity, joy, purpose and peace.
Jesus is saying "'I want you to find life, and I know it might seem difficult, and I know it might seem harsh, but I'm trying to take you down a road where you will find life [...] I want you to have peace [...] I want you to have joy,'" the pastor says.
When we go through difficult times, such as death, and we realize how much we need Jesus in our life, we are reminded of why it is "worth it" as Christians to carry that daily cross, the pastor adds.
Pries also says that while there are disadvantages to picking up the cross, such as missing out on things that may seem fun but immoral, there are also disadvantages to not picking up the cross, such as experiencing dishonesty, impurity, a lack of purpose, and so forth.
The California pastor concludes his sermon with a prayer, asking God to "help us celebrate the life You want to give us."