Matthew 16:24 (NIV): Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
As followers of Christ today, we have become too comfortable in this world that we live in. We may occasionally read the Bible but we really don’t take to heart the true and deeper meaning of what Jesus is saying. We don’t like to hear this talk of denying self because we live in a world that tells us that we should please ourselves, regardless of the cost.
The first thing that Jesus tells us to do is to deny ourselves. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches, does He? He gets straight to the point – we must deny ourselves if we are to follow Jesus. We can’t live the way the world lives and still be called a follower of Christ. And then we must take up our cross and follow Him. It’s interesting that the Gospel writer Luke adds the word “daily” to this scripture passage.
Luke 9:23 (NIV): Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. It gets even more difficult doesn’t it – we must daily take up our cross and follow Jesus.
We want all of the good things that God has promised us but we don’t want our lives to become too difficult or too uncertain. We want all of the blessings that Jesus has to offer but we don’t really want to follow him in the way of the old rugged cross.
After all, it’s extremely difficult to deny ourselves and to take up the cross daily and follow Jesus; the same Jesus that suffered and died for us and for our sins and gave his life as a ransom for many.
The cross that Jesus offers us leads to a life that will bring us face to face with many difficulties and hardships. But with those problems and worries we have a Savior that walks along with us, that provides strength and direction for the difficult journey. This cross leads to eternal life.
What will it cost you if you decide to take up your cross daily and deny yourself in order to completely follow Christ? Will you have to change your current way of life? Will you have to give up some material things in order to grow closer to God?
Will it cost you friends or even family if you choose to completely give your life over to God? Are you willing to give more to God, live on less and trust in God to provide?
Being a follower of Christ is not an easy thing to do. That’s a misconception that many people have – that following Christ will lead you to an easier way of life. Just the opposite is true – Jesus wants to turn your life upside down and inside out – he wants you to trust in Him and to allow Him to lead you.
As believers, we will face troubles and we will face trials. But in those troubles and trials, we have the promise that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is present there with us and He will lead us and even carry us through those difficult times.
Following Christ is not easy and it is not glamorous. It is a life of helping and caring about others and denying self. It’s not about seeking or receiving praise and honors, it is about leading a life that focuses on doing the most good that you can for the most people.
It is about showing those small acts of compassion and kindness that is counter to the culture of this world that we live in. It is allowing Christ to take control of your life and lead you down the “narrow…road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Luke 7:14 NIV).