If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find it.Matthew 16:25 (CEV)
In the Greek version, the word used for “life” can also be translated as “yourself” or “soul.” All three fit perfectly into this verse.
We have to give up ourselves–all our wants, our dreams, everything–to God. Be surrendered to His will. Allow ourselves to be molded and changed. If we hang on to who we want to be and what we want to do, it won’t go so well: we’ll just end up destroying ourselves.
We have to give up our lives. Look at this one way, it means leaving our old lives of sin and accepting the life God wants us to live. In another way, it means God could ask us to give up what’s familiar, what’s an important part of our lives. In yet another way, it means literally giving up our lives–dying–for Him, for the Gospel, for truth. To save our lives would mean denying Christ, whether actually saying it or writing/signing it or remaining silent; doing that means we die spiritually, and some day die without Christ.
As for giving up our souls, I think of that as becoming a Christian, asking God to save our souls, surrendering to Him.
“If you want to save [yourself/your soul/your life],
you will destroy [and lose] it.
But if you give up [yourself/your soul/your life] for [Jesus],
you will find it.”