Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.
When I read this verse, all kinds of thoughts came to mind…. Do I deny myself? Do I pick up a daily cross of selflessness or shame or suffering for the sake of Christ? This is what it means to follow Jesus. This is what giving your life for Him translates to in reality. Jesus asserts whoever WANTS to be my disciple … my follower … MUST deny themselves. So here is the challenge question for every believer: Do we truly, sincerely, honestly WANT to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ?
We I think any believer would answer, “Yes! I want to be His disciple.” But I wonder how much we ever really examine ourselves in light of this “requirement”. I say requirement because Jesus said “must”. What must we deny in or of ourselves to be a sincere disciple? What does the cross of self-denial actually look like on a daily basis? Denial in this context means to “refuse to give or grant (something desired) to (someone). So self-denial means we refuse to grant indulgence in our own sinful desires as we pursue (follow) the righteous desires of Christ Jesus for our lives and for His glory. Thus, I believe the primary expectation is that we “die to sin” which is the very purpose for which Jesus bore the cross. Paul wrote about the necessity of holiness in our lives:
Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
Disciples will die to themselves (their former natures). As Paul reasoned, “And Jesus died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15) And again, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) If the CROSS represents death, then we must die daily to our former sinful nature and live worthy of the Lord in every facet of our lives. And the implication is that this transformation of our lives is not optional. It is the natural outcome of the rebirth we experience when we come to Jesus in faith and receive His life as our own….