“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23)
Before you get the wrong idea, this is not one of those posts about my near-death (or actual death?) experience where I supposedly went to heaven for a time and then was brought back to life so that I can share my story with you. This is about what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus. I am afraid that we are guilty of sanitizing Scripture, of smoothing off the rough edges. We want the message to reach as many as possible (which is admirable), but we often worry so much about the numbers that we dumb the message down so as not to offend anyone, all the while never really challenging anyone to live the life Jesus called us to live. We must stop trying to emasculate the words of our Lord. Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and to take up our cross daily in order to follow him. Popular thought holds that we all have a cross to bear, whether it be health problems, family issues, financial strains, etc. But this is not what Jesus meant. The cross was an instrument of death. We have fashioned it into jewelry, t-shirts, art, home decor, and a million other things to make it more appealing, but it is still an instrument of death. Jesus is saying that if I desire to follow him, then I must die. I must die every day. I must die to self. I must die to the world. I must die to the love and practice of sin. Being a disciple of Jesus means losing my life for his sake. I woke up this morning, took up my cross, and I died. If God blesses me with another day, I will die again. I died today, and I have never been more alive!
“Heavenly Father, help me to die to everything that holds me back from having life in Jesus. Help me to put to death the old man of sin. Help me to die daily so that I may be a true follower of my Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”