24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16: 21- 28)
Jesus knew the death that awaited Him. He knew of the cross He had to bear, the stripes He would endure and the sacrifice that He would make for mankind. Our feature verses follow His discussion with his disciples about fulfilling the purposes of God for His life.
In verse 24, Jesus set out the requirements for those who choose to be His disciple. We are called specifically to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow HIM… In my earlier years as a Christian, I often pondered this phrase and tried to balance it against the verse that says we must cast our cares on Him. I’ve come to understand that this verse is guiding us towards self-denial, and truly trusting Jesus to order our steps.
One of the dictionary definitions (Merriam Webster) of deny is ‘ to refuse to acknowledge.’ Strong’s Comprehensive Word Study shows the interpretation of deny in Mathew 6:24 as ” to disown and renounce self, to disregard all personal interests and enjoyment.” When we step outside of our own strength and abilities and see ourselves as only strong in Him, this can shape the way we think as we come to a place where we trust Him to empty us of our own desires and find our identities in Him.
When we put self aside and allow ourselves to be weak and vulnerable before Him, any strength that we have must be as a direct result of His influence in our lives. The denying of ourselves allows us to carry that cross – not in our strength, but in the strength God gives us.
Now that we have allowed ourselves to be strengthened by Him and have taken up our cross, our next step is to follow Him. There is clarity in where we need to go with the cross we are now carrying with the strength that He has given us. We need to follow Him! If we follow our own dreams and desires, we may end up in places He didn’t intend for us to be. If we keep our eyes fixed on Him, as we walk in the strength that He has given us, then we will find the cross may not be as heavy as we thought, nor the journey as long and painful as it first seemed.
The cross-carrying experience is not a walk in the park. We don’t generally look forward to pain and suffering, but when we no longer limit ourselves to what we can do on our own, we come to realize that we can indeed do all things through the Christ who gives us strength.
Inventory/Introspection: How am I handling the cross bearing experience?
Personal Application: The cost of following Christ add up to nothing when compared to the consequence of rejecting Him.
Father, there are days when our walk with You seems to demand more than we are able to endure, but we are thankful that You have made a way for us to triumph in Your name. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
We are grateful that You give us the gift of choice. We choose to follow You! We are grateful that You call us friend, and that Your love surrounds us! The idea of carrying crosses may not be attractive to us, but You clearly ask us to do just that.
The cross we bear today may not be the one we come across tomorrow, but You remain constant. Your love is everlasting and Your faithfulness knows no end. The words You spoke centuries ago remain relevant and effective in our present circumstances. Letting go of who we are and what we can do, creates the opportunity for You to strengthen us so we can carry our crosses.
Dear Jesus, we do not want to gain all that life has to offer, and lose out on what You have already died to give us. We look forward to the day when we will behold Your face in awe and wonder, but for now, may Your name be glorified as we deny ourselves, shoulder our crosses in the strength You give, and follow after You.
Except where indicated, Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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