And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” -Luke 9:23
If you’re like me, you don’t have it all together. As hard as it is to admit sometimes, we aren’t Superman like we may think we are. We have weaknesses. Even Superman had kryptonite. For each of us our kryptonite may come in different forms, but falls under the same title…sin. No one on this earth in past, present or future has been or will ever be perfect except for our perfect Savior and King, Jesus. Thanks be to God for the finished work of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection that we are set free from the chains of sin. If you have been saved by the atoning work of Jesus, you are eternally set free. You have the hope and promise of eternal life with God forever. Although this is true, you are still going to battle sin in this life. You will still battle the temptations of sin. Thankfully God offers his grace to us because of this finished work of Christ. Because of this grace, following Jesus is still something we can do even when we battle the sin of this life.
In Luke 9, Jesus takes a moment to offer some teaching to all wanting to follow him. This teaching is a timely reminder for all who know Christ that following him takes sacrifice. Jesus doesn’t take the time to do this teaching to only his disciples. To this point of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has already performed miraculous works including the feeding of the five thousand. It would be safe to say that Jesus had built up a solid following of people. Now, the twelve disciples are obviously included in that, but Jesus takes the time to in Luke 9:23 to address “all”. This addressing is not just for the disciples, but for all or anyone who would want to follow Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that following him isn’t something you just sign up for to benefit from, like a rewards card at a department store. Following Jesus takes sacrifice.
You Must Deny Yourself
Jesus makes it clear that the life of following Him means that life no longer revolves around you. This can be very hard for a person to understand given the culture of today. Everything is focused on the consumer. We’re taught to make sure we are taken care of before anyone else. The Christian faith is the complete opposite. And for those wanting to follow Jesus, self-denial is a prerequisite. Denying oneself means to deny control of your life. You no longer have a say in the matter. Yes, you have desires and hopes for your life, but ultimately you surrender to Jesus and the plans God has for you. Paul explains this notion in Romans. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). If you present your body as a living sacrifice, you are giving up complete control to God and saying “have Your way Lord!” If you’re willing to be honest, you may struggle with this just like I do. Our sinful nature wants to be against the things of God, but thanks be to God our lives are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us and brings us to repentance. You must deny yourself.
You Must Take Up Your Cross
Taking up your cross doesn’t just mean you just put on a cross around your neck, or wear a t-shirt saying you’re saved. Taking up the cross of Christ shows you are committed. You are identifying as being bought with the blood of Jesus and you are ready and willing to take on whatever the enemy may throw at you. You’re willing to be rejected by friends and/or family. You’re willing to be labeled derogatory words by society. The reality is you know what Jesus has done in and for you (Galatians 2:20) and you don’t care what the world has to say about it. You want to live out Romans 12:1 and be faithful to Jesus’ teachings. You may not always get it right, which none of us do, but thankfully we have God’s grace available to us. You must take up your cross.
Jesus concludes this verse by saying one who wants to come after Him must follow. If you’re willing to deny yourself and take up your cross, then following Jesus should come natural. Because we have been regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside, we experience conviction when we sin. We know what is of Christ and what is not. We seek His face and thankfully He directs where we are to go. Denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Jesus can be hard, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because we’ve been bought with a price. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, King Jesus. Following Him may take you to places you never thought you’d go. You may not feel equipped to follow where He takes you. He will provide the tools necessary, and it’s totally worth it! Be obedient in following Him.