“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”It is becoming more and more difficult in our society today to be a true Christian. The pressures to compromise the Word of God, to go with what’s popular is intensifying day by day. The name of Jesus is becoming more and more hated in the world. Philosophies like - All religions are the same; there is more than one way to God; Ideas like “Jesus was just another prophet” all mislead the society about the truth of Jesus Christ. The media of TV, Hollywood, magazines, and secular organizations of all types are more and more hostile to Christ. But the truth of the Bible remains solid as a Rock that
(Phil 2:9-11) “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God”Not just some knees will bow, but every knee – Christian knees, churchgoer, unbeliever, and atheist; the knees of presidents, governors, mayors, CEOs, billionaires, dictators, or scientists. Every knee will bow. The Bible guarantees it. This is why the rebellion against and rejection of the Word of God and the name of Jesus is getting more intense today. People just want to do their own thing! This makes the life of the Christian more challenging since we go against the flow of society by following the Bible. But we will be up to the task if we stick with the Word of God come “hell or high water” as the saying goes. The popular culture says the Bible is outdated but every day the Bible is confirmed by the events of the day and the moral decline of the society. Pop culture has no true answers to the condition of life today.
In the passage Jesus is teaching us what it takes to follow Him in this wicked and perverse world.
“If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].”Here Jesus is calling for self-denial. Two phrases that stand out “deny himself” and “take up his cross”
What does it mean to deny self? and take up the cross?
Self Denial: This is the setting aside of your own wishes, needs, or interests, for the interest of another. It could be in a relationship or for a cause. Our flesh desires fame and fortune. Our flesh desires money, comfort and physical satisfaction at the expense of people. There is nothing wrong with these desires unless selfish ambition is the motive. Selfishness is the character of the flesh. And our flesh will sin to satisfy those desires. But God desires for us to be cleansed from sin and obedient to his Word.
Christians must practice self denial daily and not seek to do our own thing at the expense of others. It's all about God's will and doing things to please Him and not just pleasing ourselves. We discover our purpose and destiny for life when we please God and He will give us the desires of our heart. Everyone wishes that they can have the desires of their heart fulfilled. Some think money can do it while others seek fame, power, position and title. They become sadly mistaken since many who seek these things are depressed, sad, become addicted to drugs and alcohol, commit evil acts or even suicide. True fulfillment only comes from pleasing God through Jesus Christ.
Take up His cross: Now what did Jesus mean? Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a difficult marriage or relationship, a dead-end job, or a chronic health problem or illness. Some people will take even pride in saying “This burden is my cross I have to carry” You are denying the healing and delivering power of God. This is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” You take up your cross when you take up the cause of Christ. Conform to the image of Christ daily and preach and live the Kingdom of God to every people and nation. It means that our lives must reflect – Love, joy, peace, faith, longsuffering (patient endurance), goodness, meekness, gentleness and temperance (self-control) - the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24)
Each Christian must look into the mirror of his/her soul and answer these questions
- Can I follow Jesus if it means the loss of my image or reputation?
- Can I follow Jesus if it means losing my closest friends?
- Can I follow Jesus if it means rejection from my family?
- Can I follow Jesus if it means losing my job?
- Can I follow Jesus if it means losing my life? (Christians are jailed and killed in some countries because of their belief in Jesus)
The three things about self denial are:
Self Denial involves following Christ above self
The society (or world system) says look out for No.1, because nobody will look out for you. This is selfish thinking that glorifies self. Personal achievement, our education, social position is just as important as our submission to Christ. We take pride in thinking that these were obtained by our own intelligence and smarts. We forget about God. This gets us into pride and blind ambition. You have placed yourself first; crowned yourself King and Christ will have to take second place. This is contrary to the Word of God
Christ commands that we take up the cross. (Matt 16:24, Luke 14:27). Christ commands that we give up our interests and put Him first. (In Acts 5:27-29 imprisoned apostles received a miracle release by an angel of the Lord because they put Jesus first)
Christ commands that we "seek first the Kingdom of God and his religiousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt 6:33). There is no self denial doing your own thing. We cannot serve Christ and live by the opinion that "Everybody doing it" There is no self-denial in thinking you can preach better, pray better, worship better than somebody else. Can you look past yourself, which is your ego? Otherwise you will place yourself at the center of your life and not Christ. That is idolatry and rebellion and the power of God will not work in your lives. The life of the Christian is learning and growing in absolute surrender to Christ. The rewards and blessings are great both in this life and in the life to come.
The example of Christ is the pattern for self denial. He is always saying that He came to do the will of his Father and not his own will (John 5:30). The ultimate example of self denial and taking up the cross is Jesus Himself. He gave up His life so that we may not perish but have everlasting life. So to those who don't know Him, now is the time to ask Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior.
Self Denial involves following Christ above family, relatives and friends
The correct order is Christ, Family then Ministry. If we are going to follow Christ, we must put Him above family, relatives and friends. (Luke 14:26; Matt 10:37). Christ must come first in all things (Col 1:18; Matt 6:33)
Self Denial involves following Christ above and material riches
We cannot serve God and mammon (or money) (Matt 6:24). Christ commands that all our possessions be subservient to Him ( Mark 10:21, Matt 19:21). Christ commands that we develop a giving character. This shows that we place Christ above material riches. (Mal 3:10-11, 2 Co.r 9:7)
The benefit of self denial is joy, peace, blessings and a fulfilled life. The result of your self denial, your commitment to Christ, and your commitment to the Kingdom of God is developing a Christ like character.