Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”Matthew 16:24-25 NLT
Jesus only spoke the truth. God cannot lie. It’s not in his divine nature. Therefore, whatever God says is absolutely true. If God said it, you can put your trust and faith in it. God does not break his promises like humans do. God never fails.
What Jesus said to his disciples then applies just as much to his disciples today. Let’s examine his words.
If any of you wants to be my follower
The invitation to follow Jesus is offered freely. We decide if we are willing to follow Him. Some terms and conditions may apply.
You must give up your own way
We are all born into sin. We are all born into disobedience. We are all born estranged from our Heavenly Father.
We are born into containers of flesh, ruled by our flesh. We live in the futility of our own minds, separated from the mind of Christ. Our ego, our identity apart from God, will lead us astray. Give up your own way. It only leads to death.
Take up your cross
The cross was the means Romans used to torture and kill those condemned to die. It put an end to the fleshly existence in humiliating and public fashion. To be crucified meant everyone would watch you die a painful death.
To take up your cross means to pick up and carry the very instrument that would be used to kill you. Again, you must be willing to die and put the effort in to help make it happen.
Jesus sacrificed Himself once and for all for all mankind. Now, when we place our trust in Him and get baptized, we publicly identify with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We are crucified with Christ. The deeds of our flesh are put to death. We are raised up in new life as we are given the Holy Spirit to empower us to live unto Christ with victory over the flesh and the grave.
Everyday, we carry our crosses. That’s our part of the sanctification process. God does the rest. We just must be willing to die to ourselves, our flesh, our self-centered dreams and selfish desires in order to allow the love of God to live through us.
And follow Me
What is a disciple? A follower of Jesus. You can’t go your own way and follow someone else at the same time. There is only one Leader. There is only one Teacher. There is only one Father and Lord of All. To follow Jesus, to be led by the Spirit, means abandoning control over your life and trusting that God will lead you to do His will instead of your own.
You must decide for yourself. You’re the only one who can. Will you follow Jesus and live forever? Or will you do your own thing and return to the dust from which you are made?
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.
It was never yours to begin with. Did you create yourself? We are merely stewards of what has been given to us.
But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
We have free will. We can make our own decisions. To follow Jesus means that daily we honor Him as Lord and obey Him. We obey His teachings. We obey His commandments. We obey His voice. You cannot obey and disobey at the same time. Either you follow Jesus or you don’t. There is no middle ground. There is no room for false converts or double-mindedness.
Today is the day. God is saying, “Carry your cross.”
Put to death the selfish works of the flesh. Repent. For the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Carry your cross. And live forever.
Lord, we surrender to Your will, Your way, Your truth. You are the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through You. We give You our lives today and everyday. Do with them what You will. All for Your glory. Amen.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.Romans 8:12-14 NLT