Denying One’s self and taking up the Cross
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Math 16:24
In today’s world, when we hear the name of Jesus. It evokes many emotions. We love to state “We Love Jesus”, “We Praise Jesus”, “We Thank Jesus”, but rarely people say “We follow Jesus”, The little who says this, do not know what it is to really follow Jesus.
Jesus said, “if any man will come after me… in other words follow me”, he must have two prerequisites or covenants which he needs to made daily, which are “let him deny himself and take up his cross”
Before we understand “what is denying oneself” is, we need to understand, what it means to “acknowledge oneself”. Since we were children, this is what we were taught, to acknowledge our self. Everything in this world is to do with I, me and myself.
All the knowledge, wisdom & understanding that we’ve gathered from childhood has formed a certain invisible and powerful kingdom within us.
All the frictions and wars around the world today are driven by this invisible kingdom that exists within man. For example, a child will be brought up in a home with the concept of “mother land”, when this child grows up he will have a passion to defend his mother land from intruders, may be he wouldn’t have visited all the places in his country, nevertheless, he fights hard to protect it. He will go to the extent of sacrificing his own life to safe guard his country.
Same thing with ones self image and dignity. We hear people saying things like, “I will even go without food but will defend my name, I can’t afford to let anyone tarnish my image’ etc.
All these self-attributes are territories of our kingdom and we do not hesitate to vigorously protected them. Some examples of these attributes are our self respect, self esteem, self status, self realization, and self actualization.
On the other hand, what the Bible says is, “you do not exist” you died the day you were baptized with the Holy Spirit. Now it is Jesus who exists in you. You have to deny your old self and accept that you are a new creation with Christ as the head of your kingdom.” What a powerful statement and promise this is.
“For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was.
And we know that our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, so that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed and we should no longer be the slaves to sin.
For when we die, we are set free from the power of sin.
Since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
Rom 6:5-8 (Good news version)
Dear friends, everyday in the mornings, we need to commit our day to the Lord, because it is no more about I, me, myself. We need to deny ourselves and submit to the perfect will of God. If we do this, we can be assured, whatever comes our way during the day, we will be able to over come with courage. Furthermore we will be at ease, as we do not bear the brunt of it, it does not hurt us or affect us any more. How is that?
A dead body cannot be hurt by anything. That is why we call it dead. Likewise, Satan’s devices do not pierce us, as we our dead in our old self and we are a brand new creation in Christ our savior.
For an example, if people persecute us with Words, it does not enter our souls, as we have denied ourselves and the very existence of ourselves. Hence, these people hurt Christ our Lord, who will certainly reward everyone according to his own actions. Simply, what they sow that they will reap.
The question now we need to ask our selves is, “Are prepared to deny our selves
Take up his Cross
Cross, as we know depicts the sufferings and also is associated with glory. It can be seen as a doorway in which, first comes suffering and then followed by glory.
Jesus was nailed on the cross and on this same cross, he yielded his ghost into Glory. Cross was the ending of his suffering and the be ginning of his Glory.
In human terms, bearing the cross for us is facing trials. If we yield in the correct spirit with the Lord, our trials will vanish away soon and we will begin to reap the blessings from these very trials. Yes, blessings.
From Samson’s story in the Bible, we see how a ferocious Lion (Spiritually Satan and the trial) came out of the woods, without a warning to devourer him. However Samson took the Lion and tore it apart with the strength and might in him (Spiritually Holy Spirit). And finally, out of the carcass came out honey (Spiritually speaking, blessings).
There is a story about a famous preacher, who in one of his sermons told the congregation, “please take up your cross and put it on your shoulders”, and immediately there was such a silence in the congregation. But at the end of the church there was a struggling noise, behold one man was trying to carry and put on his shoulder his wife.
We all have many crosses that we carry in our life. It can be either our own relatives who are in need, sick friends, financial problems, health….the list goes on.
First we need to “Take the cross”. A cross that is kept on site will only remain there for years un-touched, instead we need to pick the cross up. In other words face the situation boldly, as Samson faced the Lion with courage.
The cross can be carried by, praying, doing what we can to the best of our abilities and taking it up. The Holy Spirit will give you the wisdom and discernment to take up the cross of trial.
Hence, when we receive salvation we will have many crosses to carry, but do not fear, take up the cross, Jesus will help you to turn your crosses into blessings.
This will never be easy, as there will be suffering at the beginning but with constant prayer you will be able to tear the trial into pieces and blessings like honey will start pouring “out” of the very trial.
Both these prerequisites are difficult…. as we are of the flesh. Nevertheless, we have our father who has mastered these on earth and he is always by our side to help us.
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Phi 4:13
On this the classic examples that we see in the Bible are, the life of Moses and Joseph.
For forty years Moses was put in the harsh wilderness to look after sheep. He was taken out from the palace of Egypt with all the royalties and best of education. Every thing he had to do with himself was taken away from him, absolutely everything. After 40 years when he had nothing of him, then God almighty revealed himself to Moses who became the a great leader and deliverer of the children of Israelites.
Joseph lived a comfortable life with his father. He was his fathers favorite son but everything was taken away gradually. Finally he was put in the dungeons as a forgotten prisoner. From the comfort warmth of his father to the horrid cold dungeons in the deep. Eventually he was able to completely deny himself and God bestowed his everlasting blessings, super naturally upon Joseph’s life.
Today because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice and ascended to heaven, we need not go through the same agonies that Moses and Joseph went through, But Jesus is only asking for a firm and complete commitment from us and he will give us the strength, through the holy spirit to face the many trials of life, and come out with victory and blessings.
Hence can we “deny ourselves, and take up the cross, and follow Jesus until eternity.”