“If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk 9:23).
While many teachings about self-esteem and being a confident and successful person revolve around the notion of “affirming yourself” and “believing in yourself”, Jesus says the key task is to “deny yourself”. This is a cost to following Him. No one can be His disciple (student, pupil, follower) unless he denies himself. In other words, Jesus will not teach a person who sees his own life as more important than Jesus. Such a person is expelled from the school of Christ. Following Jesus begins with self-denial.
In another place Jesus said, “If any man come to Me, and hate not His father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). Jesus must have first place in all things. Our love for Him must be preeminent above our love for anyone or anything else. And until a person comes to this point, Jesus will not teach them or allow them to follow Him.
Does this sound too harsh? To be sure, it is not commonly preached among the churches today but nevertheless, it is what Jesus said. Denying self and willingly sacrificing our own interests for the interests of others (i.e. taking up our cross) is actually reasonable in the kingdom of God. It is reasonable because it is precisely what the Master has done. Jesus denied Himself, He took up His cross and He laid down His life to please His Father and to save our souls. Jesus doesn’t ask us to do something that He Himself is not willing to do. Thus, denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus is the reasonable response to seeing Him as He really is. Believers will do this. In fact, it is the “first step” (I hate to use that verbiage) in spiritual life – it is where discipleship starts. Thus, the apostle declares, “that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15).
Is this too much to sacrifice? Is it really reasonable to ask people to do such a thing? Is Christianity a vow of suffering, poverty, sackcloth and ashes? The willingness to do this will come when we see “the glories to follow.” The road of suffering has glory at the end. The cross of Christ leads to a resurrection of eternal life. The text continues, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it” (Lk 9:24). Anyone who forsakes all to follow Jesus and do the will of God “shall receive an hundredfold now in this time…and in the world to come eternal life” (Mk 10:30). For the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us and if we suffer with Him we shall also be glorified together with Him (Rom 8:17-18). Now, that is something to look forward to. So, follower of Christ, deny yourself, pick up your cross daily and follow Him. You will not be sorry.
– brother Pat Woods (first posted March, 2012)