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. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
History and Context:
These are the words of Jesus to His disciples. In order to understand the impact this saying would've made on the disciples, we must put ourselves in their shoes. For us the cross has become a nice Christian symbol, but for them it was a symbol of death. Not only that, but it was a symbol of the worst death possible. To "take up your cross", to them meant to walk a road of humiliation, leading to torture, leading to death. This was the context in which Jesus said, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
The amazing thing about Jesus's statement is that He gives us a choice. When one looks at the horrible circumstances of he cross, one would think, "Who would choose this?" But Jesus asks us to choose it. He says, "if you want to follow me, this is where I am going." What is the cross? The biggest part of the cross is self-denial. That's what Jesus Himself said. We must deny ourselves, our own desires, even our own needs. Secondly, the cross is a loss of life for the sake of Christ. This is the paradox that Jesus brings us; if we try to save our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life we will find it. It is our choice to give up our life for the sake of Christ that allows us to find true life in Christ. The summar of the message of this verse is the following: Give up your own desires, and the worldly desires, and begin following after God's desires and you will find true life!
This is given to us as a choice. As A.W. Tozer points out in his devotional Renewed Day by Day: Volume 1: Daily Devotional Readings, "No Roman officer ever pointed to a cross and said, 'If any man will, let him!' Only Christ said that, and by so saying He placed the whole matter in the hands of the believer." So now the question is, What are you going to do with your choice? Are you going to look to find life your own way? Or will you choose to sacrifice your life in order to find the true life which Christ offers. Yesterday we talked about how God wants to turn our mourning into dancing, but sometimes it is our choice to hold on to what we think life is, and our unwillingness to sacrifice our own desires, that cause us to stay in our state of mourning. Let go and let God!
Lord, I want to follow you, whatever it takes. Help me to take up my cross. Help me to understand what that means for me personally. Help me to see the things I need to sacrifice in order to truly follow you. I choose to take up my cross today! In Jesus' name, Amen!