Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Going after Jesus our own way is vanity. Two things must take place if we want to properly go after Him:
- We must deny ourselves: The word “Deny” means, “Lose sight of one’s self and interest.” Following Jesus requires that you and I get to the conclusion where we recognize that outside of Jesus we are nothing. He does not want a little of us left, He wants all of us to get out of the way. We must get to the conclusion that in order to follow Jesus, we must deny our will, our desires, our emotions and our feelings. We must conclude that “self” is worthless. Following Jesus without denying “self” is against Scripture.
- We must take up our cross: The flesh fights against the Spirit of God in us (Galatians 5:17) and against our own souls (1 Peter 2:11). The only way to achieve victory over the desires of the flesh is by walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). The flesh has no hope of ever being converted, refined or reformed. The flesh will always be in a war against the holiness of God. That cross is for us to nail the desires of the flesh every day. Luke explained in a more aggressive way as he tells us in Luke 14:27, “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Without the willingness to carry our cross, Jesus can’t receive us as His disciples.
We can’t properly follow Jesus if we refuse to deny ourselves and if we refuse to carry the pain of the cross. There is no other way; we must go the way of the cross. Do you know what is wrong with the church today? Do you want to know why we are so divided? We blame racism, differences in doctrines, cultures, social classes, etc. All of that is the end-result of one thing and one thing only; you want to know the answer to these questions? Do me a favor, let’s go right now and look at ourselves in the mirror… Yeah, that’s right! We are the problem! However, once we make up our minds to deny “self” and carry our individual crosses we will be in right order to biblically follow Christ. It is then that, as we surrender to God’s Word, we find ourselves changing, dying to self and being more and more like Jesus as we become less and less like ourselves!