(OPINION) ETH – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”– Matthew 16:24-25
Most people read this passage and skip right over two crucial commands that Jesus made in reference to following him. In today’s Christianity, we have emphasized the notion of just putting your faith and trust in Jesus and follow him. But what does that really mean and why is it important to understand how crucial it is to get this right? I believe there is a reason why Jesus highlighted two main points in conjunction with following him. Let’s examine this further.
1- We must first deny ourselves
It’s interesting that the first thing the Lord commanded the disciples to do if they intended on following him was self-denial. I believe this teaching has for the most part fallen by the wayside in the modern church today.
Most churches today ask you to simply raise your hand, repeat a prayer and welcome you to the family of God, without ever emphasizing the importance of submitting ourselves to God through a process called “sanctification”, which means to set ourselves apart for the work of God.
The point is this. When we came to God we were practicing sin and living our lives to appease our flesh and not God. However, if we desire to follow after the Lord, we must understand that is will require us to no longer serve our former lusts but we are now servants of Christ, meaning we are going to have to lay down things in our lives through self-denial.
2- We must be willing to take up our cross daily
What exactly does this mean? To make this very simple, it means to die to ourselves daily. The cross represents crucifixion or dying to ourselves. I am perfect aware that in some places in the world there is Christians that are literally being tortured and even crucified, The Apostle Paul stated: “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”
I have always told people that I died on June 2nd, 2000 because this was the day I chose to lay down my life to the Lord and take up my cross and follow after him. No, I didn’t physically die that day, but my personal crucifixion began on that day because I chose to put many things in my life at the foot of the cross. And this was not a one-time event, It has been a daily walk with God and requires a life of continual crucifixion.
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”
I want to point out that the Gospel writer Luke highlighted the point of “taking up our cross daily” unlike the passage of Matthew that I shared above.”Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” – Luke 9:23
Lastly, when we look at these two commands we can see why Jesus said: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” I promise you that if we try to ride the fence in our walk with the Lord, we will be the most miserable Christians anyone can encounter. We will have a form of Godliness, but possess no power or influence.
We will express him in bumper stickers, t-shirts, and even Christian lingo but true power and anointing only comes through self-denial and dying to our selves daily and this is why I believe we are seeing so many in the church falling away today.
We have churches filled with people that have raised their hands and confessed something they heard but are living the same lives they did when they came to Christ. Just look at the rich young ruler in the Bible. He was doing everything right but wasn’t willing to lay down the one thing that would keep him from the Kingdom.
“Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” – Matthew 19:16-22