If you skip over this verse in the Bible, or you read it and fail to understand it, or you read it and understand it but fail to live by it, you are missing one of the most absolutely vitally important aspects of believing in and following Jesus Christ as Lord, of spending eternity with Him instead of forever apart from Him in torment in hell and the lake of fire, and of enjoying an amazingly, wonderfully, awesomely, beautiful, precious, and fulfilling personal and intimate relationship with the Lord both now on this earth and forever with Him in heaven!
“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.” Luke 9:23
The Lord Jesus Christ makes absolutely abundantly clear that those who turn from our sins, believe He is Lord and in His death and resurrection, truly committing ourselves to God and His ways, receiving God’s forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life with Him, ARE TO DENY OURSELVES EVERY SINGLE DAY, TO TAKE UP OUR CROSSES, AND TO FOLLOW HIM.
This is exactly what I did NOT do for many years because I was first under false teaching, then under sugar-coated, watered-down teaching, and because even when I came to understand this truth I still needed to come to a place of TOTAL SURRENDER. Of TOTAL DEVOTION to the Lord. Of HUMBLING MYSELF and LIVING FOR HIM and NO LONGER FOR ME (2 Cor. 5:15).
Friend, countless pastors behind pulpits today, Bible study teachers, seminary professors, Sunday school teachers, and others called to preach and teach are NOT teaching this vital truth of God’s Word to God’s sheep. Countless people aren’t learning it. And countless people learning it aren’t practicing it. Which is why in this day and age we are in the dire straits we are in not only in this world but right in the Body of Christ of believers in Him. But it is NOT TOO LATE. Just as it was not too late for me to finally humble myself before God, fully devote myself to Him, and to learn to live by this verse day by day, it is not too late for anyone alive on this earth today, including those reading this message, to make this unbelievably important surrender to God and to His Word.
So what does this verse look like in practical terms? It looks like this. Each and every day, we who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord are to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. God’s Spirit comes to live inside us when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and receive Him as Lord, and we are to be filled with and led by God’s Spirit according to God’s Word. We are to read the Bible and spend time alone with the Lord regularly and to live according to God’s ways as He teaches us in the Bible.
Very specifically, in line with this verse, we are to DENY OURSELVES in that we are to DIE TO SELF in that we are to FORSAKE ANYTHING & EVERYTHING that does not line up with God’s will for our lives. We are to say NO to our flesh when our flesh wants to think, say, or do anything that is ungodly, unrighteous, displeasing, and dishonoring to God. We are to take up our “crosses” in that we are to die to anything God does not want in our minds, hearts, bodies, and lives. And we are to do what? To follow Jesus. In other words, to live for Christ. To obey Christ. To love and serve the Lord with every ounce of our hearts.
This is not to be a one-time event. Nor a once-in-a-while happening. This is to be our very WAY OF LIFE. The LIFE OF FOLLOWING JESUS!
A concrete example? The Lord made clear He wanted me to go to New York City for a second season of ministry there. I absolutely did NOT want to go. Too dangerous, too scary, too dirty, too expensive, too hard, too challenging, too uncomfortable, and absolutely too cold in the winter! I went! I denied myself and what I wanted, I took up my cross and died to self, and I followed Jesus. I had a very hard – and totally amazing and wonderfully rewarding and beautifully rich in ministry – eight months of ministry there!
Another example? A man who was very high on drugs broke into my apartment building there and hid himself in the garbage room where I found him when I opened the garbage room door. I was petrified, horrified, upset, angry, got help, and chased him down the street with a camera to see if I could do something about all this. Several months later, I found him in front of the apartment building in the process of what appeared to be overdosing. I held him in my arms, prayed over him, talked to him about Jesus, begged God to help him, called 911 several times, and kept him in my embrace with the love of Jesus until the first responders arrived on the scene. By God’s grace, he stood up and walked away. Shortly before I left New York City, I saw him one last time and WITH ALL MY HEART BEGGED HIM to repent and commit his life to Jesus as Lord and told him I wanted to see him in heaven! Friend, God has taught, and is teaching me, to each and every day deny me, me, me, not live for self, take up my cross and die to the flesh and my self-centered ungodly ways, and to live for and follow Him forth!
This message is for every single one of us on this earth. This is how we are ALL called to live! The specifics of to what and to whom and where the Lord calls us may vary, but this is not the point. The point is we are ALL called to repent, to turn from our sins to Christ as Lord, and daily to deny self, take up our crosses, and live to love and serve the Lord with every ounce of our hearts as we follow Him wherever He so leads us! Amen!