"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." Luke 9:23
What an eloquent verse this is that describes the requirements of the Christian faith.
First, you must believe. Heb 11:6 tells us that "He that cometh unto God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Following Jesus necessarily involves belief. No one would get on a plane that they did not feel could fly nor a boat they did not think could float. The desire to follow him means that the individual has been compelled to do so by recommendation, personal experience, need or fear of the alternative. All of these have belief as a foundational component.
Denying oneself contextually means to die to oneself. Clarity is found in Rom 12: 1 where we are told to make our bodies a living sacrifice. Otherwise said, we are no longer our own but now are to lead lives dedicated to the service of the Lord. Through baptism, we die to the flesh spiritually, are buried as dead and are resurrected into the newness of life even as Christ was. In so doing, we live lives dedicated to the accomplishing of his will rather than our own.
Taking up our cross demonstrates that our commitment is not to be entered into lightly. It involves the gritty reality of suffering, pain, ridicule, persecution, sacrifice and potentially, literal and figurative death. The cross is a heavy burden, but it is one that Christ shouldered for us. He now invites all that are weary and burdened to come to him from whom rest is available.
Finally beloved, we cannot just talk about it, but we must be about it. Calling ourselves Christians is meaningless without living the life that exemplifies that calling. A young man of many great possessions and authority was once invited to follow Christ but turned it down, once he heard what it involved. We must follow him in word, thought and deed regardless of the cost. Remember that we are bought with a price paid for by the blood of our savior.
One might ask why we should endure such things since they have already been done for us. The answer is that we should endure such things because they have been done for us. By taking up his own cross, Christ serves as an example for us. The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. Though we may sometimes find our faith to be challenging to maintain, we will find that the benefits to doing so are out of this world.
Loving Like Jesus,