Jesus said we must take up our cross and follow Him, but what does that look like in real life?
Before we take up our cross, we must deny ourselves, because we can’t bend down and take up our cross until we first deny our own agenda in life. You can’t profess Christ until you deny yourself, and when you confess Christ, believe me, people will take notice, and they might deny knowing you because you belong to Christ. But that’s part of what it means to carry the cross. Persecution usually follows after a public profession of Christ. Your friends can’t understand what’s happened to you, but that’s because they’re still blinded by the god of this world (2nd Cor 4:3-4), and they haven’t yet been quickened by the Spirit of God (Eph 2:1-5), but if we are not willing to die to ourselves and live for Christ, then it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to take up our cross. Our flesh will fight us all the way (Rom 7:18-19). Only until we decide to have the funeral….the funeral of our own self-will, can we ever hope to take up our cross and follow Christ. Have the funeral. Trust in Christ. Deny yourself, and then take up your cross.
Take it Up
Jesus’ disciples must have been shocked when He told them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 15:24). They understood the horror of the cross, probably being witness to hundreds who were crucified in Jerusalem. Almost everyone knew about the cross at that time because the Roman’s placed the crucified bodies near the high traffic areas, like near roadways, so it would serve to be a deterrent to crime or rebellion, so the disciples, like most of us, probably struggle with this command, perhaps not even knowing what it means. It sounds very much like a call to action since it is we who must “take up” our cross. Jesus cannot do that for us, nor can anyone else. It must be us who take it up, meaning, we must bend down to receive it, and being on our knees is a great place to be to receive Christ. And while we’re down there, we must take up the cross, stand up, and carry it through our lives. If that weren’t bad enough, Jesus then tells us, “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:38). Doesn’t that get your attention? It does mine, so the first way we can take up our cross is to bend down in humble submission to the Lord, Jesus Christ, and take our cross. It is only after this that we can follow Him.
When we are told to take up our cross, notice that it’s our cross and not Jesus’ cross or someone else’s cross, so it’ll look different than someone else’s. Besides, it’s not wise to compare. The Apostle Paul wrote that we don’t “dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding”(2nd Cor 10:12). Our own cross is unique to us. It might be losing a job because you refuse to “cook the books.” It might be someone telling lies about you because you trusted in Jesus Christ. Some of your family and friends will embrace this, but most will not. For other believers around the world, it could be the millions of who are being held prisoner and suffering torture or deprivation for the cause of Christ. That is what carrying the cross is. Carrying the cross is not having the washing machine break down, getting a flat tire, having someone take your parking space, or having a really bad day. The context of Jesus saying that we must take up our cross is persecution for His name’s sake. It has nothing to do with everything going wrong, but being willing to suffer shame for the sake of our Lord.