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Jesus said that if you want to follow Him, you have to deny yourself and take up your cross. What does this mean? You have to stop living your life according to your own ways, according to the world’s ways, and according to Satan’s ways. You need to leave behind your old life. You need to study the Bible, develop an intimate relationship with the Lord, and learn to live your life according to His ways. Guess what has to die.
Do you know when your flesh screams, “Gimme, gimme, gimme”? Or when it cries, “Me, me, me”? Or when the addictions are begging you to feed them? Or when you feel utterly driven to do something you know is illegal, wrong, hurtful, immoral, and totally ungodly? Or when the extra-marital affair is whispering in your ear to leave your spouse in the dust? You get the picture, don’t you? Why does all that have to die? So Jesus can live in and through you.
The apostle Paul understood. He got the message of Jesus. He lived it. He gave up persecuting Christians, gave up any semblance of a normal, fun, happy, comfortable life, and dedicated every breath of his existence it seems to loving and serving the Lord, to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to absolutely wherever God sent him. The persecution he endured was unspeakable. Yet he was willing to die for Christ.
He not only was willing to die a physical death for Christ should it come to that, but he was willing to die on a daily basis. How so? By leaving behind his old life to live the way God had called him to live. How did he die? How did he accomplish this? Daily. Day by day. Just as Jesus had said. He denied himself and took up his cross every single day. And he considered the pain of this daily death absolutely nothing when compared with the everlasting life he knew he could look forward to because he had placed his faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Your cross might not look like everyone else’s. Your daily dying might not feel like someone else’s. But you are not called to take up anybody else’s cross but your own. Every time you say no to something or someone that God has called you to turn away from, your flesh is dying so that Christ might live in and through you. You might need to end a relationship today that you know goes against God’s standards. You might need to lay down the drug addiction once and for all.
You might need to start being loving and respectful toward your boss at work even though he won’t give you a raise. You may need to forgive someone from the heart whom you have absolutely refused to forgive for the past three decades. You may need to call your enemy on the telephone to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ because you have finally realized that is exactly why God put that person in your life.
Your flesh may scream. Your flesh may cry. Your flesh my moan and hurt and be totally uncomfortable. But understand that what you endure in your daily dying is literally nothing when compared with the indescribably horrific death Jesus Christ experienced on the cross as He bore all the wrath of God at the world to pay the penalty for your sins.
If you don’t think you have the strength to die daily, you are probably exactly right. But there is one who will give you the strength to do what it is that He has called you to do. And that one is the Lord who calls you to die to yourself so that you might live unto Him.
30Why are we also in danger every hour? 31I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE. 1 Corinithians 25: 30-32 NASB underlining added
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 NASB
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20