Some people may not like the title of this post. But it’s an important topic in our Christian journey. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
Let’s break this down…
1 – If any of you wants to be my followers: I hope if you are reading this, then you are or you want to be a follower of Jesus. When Jesus said these words, He was seen as a spiritual leader. Many people in His day wanted to follow Him in order to learn and grow. We too should want to learn and grow. But that’s not all. The people who Jesus was talking to didn’t yet know that He would die for their sins. Since we have this knowledge, that alone should make us want to be a follower of Jesus.
2 – You must give up your own way: We must learn to set aside our own desires and wants, in order to align ourselves with God’s desires and wants. This might be a painful process and could even cause us much grief. But in the long run, the outcome will be beautiful.
3 – Take up your cross daily: Back when Jesus walked the earth, a person who was being executed had to carry their own cross to the place of execution, just as Jesus Himself did. So I believe in this statement, Jesus is telling us we have die to ourselves. Note the word “daily.” This means every single day we have to make a conscious decision to lay aside the things that our flesh will want.
4 – And follow me: When we become Christians, we gave our hearts to the Lord. Our number one goal in life should be to follow Jesus. It’s not something that is done once, but moment-by-moment, throughout a life-long journey.
When our flesh reads this, it might be tempted to rise up with pride. We might think of all the things we want that we have to give up. But there is good news about the things we are giving up. One of two things will happen. We might truly give those things up for the rest of our lives, which means that it wasn’t good for us. God had a better plan in mind. This could be something we know is bad, like doing drugs. Or it could even be a big dream we had, like having children. Whatever the case may be, if God does not bring it to pass, then He have to trust that He has our best interest in mind.
Or the second route is that God still might cause that thing to come to fruition anyway. Let’s stick with the “having children” example, but feel free to insert any of your dreams or goals. We have to hold that desire loosely in our hands. We have to put God first. We have to do everything for Him and His glory. But God does care about our desires and wants. It says in Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” So if He sees that this desire is a good thing and will truly be what’s best for us, we still might see our dream come true.
Every day that we walk this earth, God will be molding us. His goal is to make us more like Christ. It says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 that “God’s will is for you to be holy.” So He doesn’t want us to give anything up out of pure meanness, as some might think. He wants what is best for us. He can see our whole story from beginning to end. He knows what will bring the most fruit in our lives. Dying to self is really based on love – God’s love for us and in turn our love for Him. When we approach it from this point of view, it will make it a lot easier on us, and we will be more willing to take that step.