Matthew 10:38 “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.“
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me”.
Mark 8:34 Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me”.
Luke 9:23 “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me“.
Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple“.
How do we deny ourselves? Are we being told in this verse that we should give up everything in this life that offers us pleasure? I don’t think so, however, we’ve all heard the saying “too much of a good thing”. So moderation might be a good place to start. These are question that we all need to answer for ourselves. If the things you are doing or love to do cause you to sin, then you need to give them up! Could this possibly mean never eating chocolate again, when we really enjoy chocolate? If it causes you in anyway to be less of a follower of Jesus…if it wakens the spirit of gluttony, or the spirt of selfishness or hoarding, etc…then by all means, give it up NOW! Maybe it means never watching football again? If football games and team sports give you occasion to feed the spirits of anger, foul mouth, drunkenness or an excuse to gorge on unhealthy foods, etc…GIVE IT UP! Have you forgotten that once you become a Christian and the Holy Spirit dwells within you that YOU are the TEMPLE of GOD! 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 19 Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body. If you’re the person who goes out shopping and drives up the credit card bills every time your spouse watches team sports…then you need to turn to God (two wrongs don’t ever make a right). These are just some examples…there are way too many to list…a whole blog could be written just about the things that we need to examine in our lives and either give up or change our attitude towards. We must choose between our devotion to the things of the world or our devotion to God.
Don’t lie to yourself…everyone knows exactly what drives a wedge between themselves and Heavenly Father…if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to deny yourself and remove the wedge. It seems to me that what He’s saying in this verse is that we should put Him and our fellow man (includes spouse, children) before ourselves in every aspect of our lives…and that when we continue to live self centered, it makes it impossible to be a follower of Jesus. Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, that is his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. This verse doesn’t just reference the roof over the head and food in the belly, although these are important to survive in this world. there’s more to providing for your family than meeting physical needs. It’s our duty to provide for their spiritual needs too!
I believe that as a people, we have made up our own meaning to “take up your cross” I’ve heard some say that they consider any of the trials of life a “cross to bear” and I’ve heard others say that the cross is symbolic of what we face daily just for the mere fact that we have to live in this world (that may be true depending on the circumstances involved). There’s some that consider an illness, accident or addiction as their “cross to bear”. There are some who believe that if they’re given a task that seems difficult or something they just don’t want to do, they’ve been given a “cross to bear”. I’ve even heard people refer to their marriage or their children as a “cross to bear”. The family they were born into as their “cross to bear”. Ultimately, with this thought trend, every single challenge we face in this life can be placed in the “cross to bear” category. However, I’m thinking that taking up your cross has much deeper undertones and it really has very little to do with any of the previous statements. In my eyes, most of these comparisons make “light” of the cross that Jesus died on!
Are any of these scenarios what Jesus actually meant when these words were spoken? After giving it a lot of prayer and consideration, I believe we should be very thoughtful of how we use the phrase “cross to bear”. How can we compare anything that we endure in this life as even approaching the magnitude of the “cross” that our Lord Jesus died on at Calvary? Don’t get me wrong…I know that throughout history there have been martyrs for Jesus and I know that Christians around the world die daily rather than deny Jesus…and although they don’t deserve these acts of violence from the world, they are unlike Jesus who was blameless, they are sinners, and because of His sacrifice combined with their faith, repentence and obedience, they’ve been promised and given His gift of eternal life.
But to die daily? WOW!!! Everyday, we are faced with the world…there’s only one way to escape the world and that’s through our faith in Jesus Christ and our decision to go the other direction in all instances…away from the darkness of the world and to the Light of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now what does taking up his cross “daily” mean to me? As a Christian, I have to choose between right and wrong practically every day (that’s just the state of the world we live in today)! You can’t pick up a magazine, turn on the tv, look at your facebook feed, listen to the news without being bombarded with wickedness…on and on it goes! When a wicked thought crosses your mind or a wicked scene comes before you, which will happens less and less each day that you walk away from the world and walk with Jesus. Immediately usher out the wickedness…as it will immediately prick your conscious. As we are taught by Jesus, that thinking something evil is the same as doing it, so I believe that watching it on tv or the news works the same way. Instantaneously ask for God’s forgiveness and through the power of the WORD and in the Name of Jesus, rebuke Satan.
When our lives display the 7 distinct and unique fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith found in Galations 5:22 we are showing the world that the Holy Spirit lives in us! This is the theme though out the Bible… When we begin thinking and dwelling on good things, we have more days when fewer sinful thoughts enter our minds. So “daily” we become nearer to what we need to do to become followers of Jesus. Daily it becomes easier and easier to deny ourselves and “pick up our cross”!
Phil 4: 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.