As a Christian, I must always seek the glory of God before my own. Following this mindset, I must deny myself and take up my cross daily, following the Lord in everything I do and everywhere He leads me.
The Christian life is challenging. Jesus did not promise any of us who choose to follow Him that we will have a nice cozy life. Instead, he told us that we will suffer many things for His sake. Nevertheless, if we endure to the end, we will gain eternal life and the many blessings that come with it.
Where Did Jesus Say, 'Deny Yourself And Take Up Your Cross Daily'?
In Luke 9:23 and Matthew 16:24, Jesus told the people that if they wanted to follow Him, they should deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow Him. The Lord calls true Christians everywhere to practice self-denial for the sake of God’s kingdom. Writing for Christianity.com, Dr. Ray Pritchard explains the dying process by saying, “The cross means death to all I hold dear. No decision could be more painful. It means dying to self for Jesus’ sake.”
If I do not deny myself and take up my cross daily, I am not living my life according to the standard God sets for me to follow.
Why Didn’t Jesus’ Followers Understand He Had to Die?
Early in His ministry, Jesus had been predicting His suffering and death to His disciples. I guess He was trying to prepare them for the inevitable. Yet they did not comprehend what He was conveying to them. They wanted the Lord always to be with them, but He needed to go. If Jesus did not die according to the Father’s will, there would be no redemption from sin for humanity. Simon Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of Jesus’ accusers in the Garden of Gethsemane because he did not want the Lord to be taken away from him. It was later, after the death of Jesus, that the disciples realized their Master needed to die.
Who Are Jesus’ Disciples?
The Bible says that Jesus had twelve main men who He called His disciples. These twelve men were Peter, James, John, Matthew, Phillip, Andrew, Thomas, Simon Zealots, Bartholomew, Judas Thaddeus, and Judas Iscariot (his betrayer). The Bible also said Jesus had another 70 disciples who did not belong to the inner circle as the twelve did. However, these 70 disciples later walked away from Him after He told them and the rest of the people to eat His body and drink His blood (John 6:53, 66). However, the twelve disciples clung to Him and would not leave Him. When asked by Jesus if the twelve would also desert Him, Peter spoke up for everyone and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69 KJV).
Many people followed Jesus around Jerusalem and listened to Him preach the kingdom of God to them. However, not all of them were disciples of His. Just like today, people would follow Jesus for different reasons, such as to trap Him, to receive healing and deliverance of demons, to see the miracles he worked, and so on. However, many of their hearts are far from Him.
Why Must Jesus’ Disciples Lose Their Lives?
For the disciples to be true followers of Christ, they must purposefully lose their lives for the kingdom’s sake. There can be no greater glory than that of losing one’s life to follow Christ; this is what Jesus was trying to get across to the disciples. If they were unwilling to lose their lives for Him, they would constantly live fearing death. When Jesus told them in Matthew 16:24-26 to deny themselves by losing their lives for His sake, the disciples were all living in fear of the shadow of death. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, as seen in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples received the courage to lay down their lives for the Lord.
To lose one’s life for Christ is to gain; this is what the world cannot understand. Following Christ must mean everything to us; not even death robs us of this glory. Jesus said in Matthew 16:25-26, “For those who want to save their lives will lose it, and those who lose their lives for My sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” (NRSV)
How Do I Deny Myself And Take Up My Cross Daily?
1. By surrendering fully to the Lord daily. The Christian life is not always an easy road to travel; thus, some people sometimes give up along the way. By surrendering our lives to the Master daily, we are ensuring our denial of this world, taking up our cross daily, and following Him. Total surrender to the Lord means living a life of absolute denial of everything we hold dear in this world.
2. By daily imitating Christ. If we live for Christ and daily imitate His lifestyle, we deny ourselves and follow Him with our cross. While Jesus was on earth, He lived a life of total devotion to His Father. By living a submissive life to the Father, Jesus set an example for us to follow in His footsteps. A life in union with Christ means doing everything in its power to pattern the lifestyle of the risen Lord and thus bring glory to the Father in heaven.
3. By daily sacrificing for others. While on earth, Jesus set us a good example when He sacrificed His life for others. Everything Jesus did in His ministry was for the good of others. Likewise, we, too, must learn to sacrifice for others around us so they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
4. By loving others. God is love, and if we fail to show love to others, even when they hurt us, we are not denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus. Love is what will prove to the world we are true disciples of Christ in deed and not just words.
5. By breaking away from sin. Sin is what God hates to see in any of His creations. Therefore, if we live a life of sin in the eyes of God, we are not living a denied life that is fully sold out to the Lord and His purpose.
6. By spending quality fellowship time with God in prayer and reading His word. Prayer and reading God’s word go hand in hand. They intertwine, and one cannot do without the other. Prayer gets us into God’s presence, and reading the Word helps guide us in our everyday life. Without prayer and the word of God active in our lives, we would find it difficult to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord with all of our hearts.
To deny myself and take up my cross daily is my greatest desire; hence, I am willing to pay the ultimate price. Along with Apostle Paul, I can truly say, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NIV).
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/mbolina
Lancelot Tucker is a book author and freelance writer who writes on a vast amount of topics. In addition, he serves as an associate pastor in his hometown, Spanish Town. Lancelot loves to do research and write, and is an avid reader of other authors' works. When not writing or reading, he spends his time reaching out to the less fortunate residing in his community.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
Listen to our Daily Bible Verse Podcast Now!
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.