The true meaning of following Christ;
denying self and taking up our cross daily.
Jesus let people know up front “the way and the cost” to be a true disciple.
Matthew 16:24 -25 "Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
Let's take a closer look of the meaning of this verse by reading it also in the Gospels of Mark and Luke:
Mark 8:34-35 "When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it."
Luke 9:23 "Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it."
"If anyone desires to come after Me," shows that only those who are willing to follow Christ can do it. ”Coming after Jesus” means to live a life in obedience to Him. That is the only way to follow Him and walk into His footsteps. We follow The One we love, adore, respect and honor.
"Deny" is the Greek word, aparneomai, which means to completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone. We all, as believers should utterly separate ourselves from our old carnal nature. When we came to Jesus, we renounced to the old sinful life and decided to live a new righteous life. So, Jesus is telling us to deny what our flesh would like to do and obey the direction of the Holy Spirit. We still live in earthly vessels, so we will not achieve perfect holy lives, but the desire of our heart is to obey God in every way. As we continually have the Holy Spirit to help us to live right and please God in all that we do, think, feel and say; and the more we focus on who we are in Christ Jesus, than on our failures, we will grow and become more like Jesus. God created man into His image. His desire is for us to be more like Him. The more we know Jesus and the more the anointing of the Holy Spirit increases in us, the more we will do better. This process will continue until the Lord takes us home.
Because we love Jesus, we come to a place of surrender to Christ where we no longer reserve the right to do as we will, but only as He wills in all the areas of our lives. The more we let Him rule in our lives, the closer to complete denial of the carnal nature we are.
"Take up the cross," had a very clear meaning to the disciples time. In the cultural context of the time, the Romans had the convicted criminals carry their own cross, as an act of tacit acceptance that their death sentence was just. So, for believers, taking the personal cross daily, means that we accept that our carnal nature has to be put to death daily and crucifying it is an act of justice, in order to live in obedience to Christ and not our own self. Christ died in our place, to pay for our sin. The only way we can live holy lives is in total love and obedience to Him.
"Whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it," shows clearly that the redeemed one, is the one who gives up his former life before knowing Christ, renouncing his former ways and chooses Jesus Christ with His ways and plans for his life; loosing this earthly life in favor to eternal life. What a great exchange!
We are not all called to die as martyrs to glorify Jesus, but we are all called to lose our old life style and live as the gospel tells us to, honoring our Lord.
As Paul said in:
Philippians 1:21 "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Our Lord God knows what is best for us and He has the perfect plan for every single one of us. By obeying His will and word, we do ourselves a huge favor, knowing what is best for us. Our Father God loves us way more then we or any human being can. Obeying Him is not something that God needs but it certainly is what we need. This is the kind of life that God had in mind for His creation, a life of obedience that will keep us all under His protection and grace and will allow Him to remain in us and us in Him. This is our ticket to Heaven. And not only that, it is the life that is greatly worth it to be lived! Hallelujah! Thank You Lord Jesus for making it all possible!