BIBLE READING: MATTHEW 16:24; MARK 8:34
And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My Example in living and, if need be, in dying also]. Luke 9:23 (AMP)
When Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” He was giving us a word picture of the concept of “death to self,” which originates in another saying of His, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My Sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:24-25 NKJV). The idea is that nothing in this life is worth keeping if it means losing Eternal Life, not a job, not a family, not a group of friends, not even our very identity. The Call is tough, but the Eternal Reward is well worth the temporary pain.
The multitudes that followed Christ were convinced that He was going to bring a glorious Kingdom to the Earth as a Political Messiah, freeing them from the oppressive Roman rule. Even His own disciples were thinking this way (see Luke 19:11). Misunderstanding the prophecies, they were shocked when He began to talk about death to self and carrying the Cross (see Luke 9:22). They left Him in droves because of these teachings. Similarly, sometimes believers today misunderstand the Call of Jesus as a call to health, wealth, and prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Call of Jesus is a call to die, but today some, unwilling to accept a call to die, leave Him or simply change His Message to something more pleasant or convenient.
But His message never guaranteed a pleasant life. Jesus instead guaranteed that trials would come to His followers (see John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost. He also promised that He would be there to give us the Joy and Peace of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:15-19), comfort us in our trials (see James 1:12) and act as a faithful High Priest who understands our struggles (see Hebrews 2:17) and accomplish for us Peace with God by His Blood (see Romans 5:1).
In some places in the world, actual death is a real possibility when a person becomes a Christian. In other places, the consequences are different. The cost may be exacted emotionally rather than physically. But the lesson is clear: Although following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean actual death, we should be willing to go to death, or suffer anything rather than deny Him. Many times the temptation is more subtle. For most of us, there comes a point in our lives where we are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—and which one we choose speaks volumes about our love for Him.
Father, in the Name of Jesus, I receive the Revelation of Dying to Self and the Grace to make Sacrifices for the Kingdom of God in Jesus’ Mighty Name. Amen.