In a previous post, we talked about denying ourselves and carrying our cross daily (see Carry Your Own Cross) as Jesus spoke of in Luke 9:23-26. Here we will discuss this in a little more detail. How do we show others that we are followers of Christ? What does it mean to carry your own cross?
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.
I was just thinking that this is not only about sacrifice. We must deny ourselves, which means to let go of our past, and as Paul said, “the sin that so easily ensnares us.” I think it also means to bring our burdens to Him. He doesn’t say He will take them away, but He will help you carry them and He will give you strength to get though whatever you are dealing with. In my life, it wasn’t that my life got easier becoming a Christian. Often it is the opposite. But it does mean that I have a new perspective and I know that God is always with me and will never leave me or forsake me. It does mean that He will get me through whatever I am going through and I can count it all joy. That is what Paul means when he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” But Jesus wants our all. He wants complete surrender. We must follow Christ no matter what.
Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
These words of Jesus seem harsh. They are harsh. Many people who follow Jesus, not only in New Testament times, but today as well, are rejected by their families. Many will be disowned or even worse. The Jews had a strong tradition that if you do not follow the law, you are outcast. Certain religions today are the same way, and some would have you killed. That is what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about the cost of following Him (see Cost and Blessing of Following Jesus). You may have to give up your family to follow him. There will be sacrifices, there will be persecutions. He doesn’t promise you that life will be easy if you follow Him. He does promise you eternal life in heaven. He does promise you peace through trials.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
We can have confidence that no matter what we are dealing with, no matter our struggles, Jesus Christ is with us. He has given all who believe the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us. He gives us our faith. And when our faith is weak, when we fall short, He will be there to lift us up. The author of Hebrews is telling us that there are so many who came before us that understand what trials and persecutions are all about. Jesus had them. He understands. He is faithful to help us get through them. God wants us to have confidence. He wants us to have faith. He wants us to have humility. He wants us to trust Him.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What does carrying your cross mean? It means denying yourself. It means coming before God humbly. It means following Christ. It means letting go of your past sinful self and becoming a new creation in Christ Jesus. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you so that you can grow and to allow Him to use you for the glory of God’s kingdom.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.