“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”
Matt. 16:24, NLT
This is a head scratcher. The issue for me is that it is the disciples who are being addressed. Jesus has words with them. And what He shares is intense and demanding. He invalidates any discipleship that doesn’t say “No!” to oneself. This what is meant by self denial.
The desire to follow must be present, a true longing to walk with Jesus. We must be willing, but this is only the starting point. This would-be-follower is to go a step further. He must put to death his attitudes, actions, wants and wishes. This disciple is to turn her back on the very things she has grown and cultivated all these years as important and worthwhile. These things are self centered and will only nullify a disciple’s walk..
There must be a major upheaval of things. An excavation of your goals and reasons. It all must be torn down and hauled away. We are only following mentally, or emotionally if we will not make an end to this “natural” life.
Jesus talks about personalized crosses. Each disciple has his own. It is custom-made, with your monogram on it. It is part of the discipleship attire, and many say it is out-of-style. But each individual disciple must pick it up, settle it on his shoulder, and then step out into the crowded street.
Some say cross-carrying is a dubious and an eccentric take on Christian ethics. Church is where we go to fulfill a religious duty we feel is necessary. Others, get a spiritual buzz from singing chorus’ or “Amazing Grace”. But it is Christianity without a cross.
Pick it up. Fit it on your shoulder, and focus on Jesus. Set your gaze on Him and step into the crowd. You are a disciple and a witness to the world and the world-system. You who are denying self now, become real to the will of God.