“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
- Luke 9:23
When Jesus spoke these words, he offered us great and lasting wisdom. Let’s explore his directive to us through the lens of 4 questions:
- Why did Jesus say "deny themselves"?
- What does Jesus mean by "their cross"?
- Why does Jesus specify “daily”?
- What does Jesus mean when he says "follow me"?
Why did Jesus say "deny themselves"?
Why does Jesus say we need to deny ourselves?
Because fullness of life comes when we consider our own needs, wants, and desires as less important, when we follow Jesus, living with Him as the most important center of our lives.
What does Jesus mean by "their cross"?
Often, when we hear this passage, we think of the burden of the cross. We envision Jesus dragging his heavy cross to the hill on Golgotha.
But one cool thing about scripture is the way a single passage can allow for multiple interpretations. What if your cross is not a burden, not a trial, not death, but a perfect example of giving?
Jesus’ cross represented His responsibility. He came to die for us and restore us from our lost and broken relationship with God. So His cross represents the ultimate in sacrificial giving.
Knowing this, what is our responsibility? What does God expect of us? He has given us everything we have—our time, talent, treasure, and tribe. And it is our responsibility to steward it all for His Kingdom's purpose and His glory.
But Jesus often said things that were easy to understand but very difficult to live.
It is true that we need to give of ourselves, even unto death. But in reality, most of us will not end up in a position where we must choose to die for Him. However, we must die to ourselves. We must place God's Kingdom before our own desires, wants, and pleasure.
Why does Jesus specify "daily"?
Jesus specifies that we must take up our cross daily because doing so is a decision. It is conscious.
It is intention and action.
The reality is that we want to be judged by our intentions, but we want to judge others by their actions. Both are important, but it is not enough to have good intentions. We must follow through with our actions.
And doing so is not a one-time decision. We don’t just accept Jesus and then go back to living life as usual. Accepting Jesus means daily transformation. It is a daily responsibility.
We are made in God's image, unlike all the rest of His creation. Because of this, we have the ability to reason. Because of this, we have the ability to pause, reflect, and choose.
So when we think about this passage and our responsibility, we need to see that word like this: Response - Ability
We have the ability to respond. Every day, we can choose how we will live—as if we only get that day, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes.
We need to commit to living like Jesus lived. That’s why He finished with the words “follow me.”
What does Jesus mean when he says "follow me"?
Follow me. Do what I do. Say what I say. Follow my example.
In light of this, what do I want to do with my stuff? What do I want to do with God's stuff? What does God want me to do with His stuff?
Jesus was the perfect example of living and giving generously. He commands us, if we love Him, to follow Him and live like He lived.
While it’s impossible to follow His example perfectly, it is fun to live the journey!