Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Two very important conversations had just taken place between Jesus and Peter, before Jesus laid this before his disciples. Jesus had asked the apostles who men were saying He was, and they told Him what the people were saying. Then Jesus asked them who they were saying He was, to which Peter replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 16:15-17
Following that conversation, Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21
Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him saying, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to You!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:22-23
In those two brief exchanges between Jesus and Peter, Peter was greatly blessed and then sternly rebuked. Was there a contradiction there? Absolutely not! Scripture declared that anyone who died on the cross was accursed. So when Peter, knowing the truth that Jesus was the King of Israel, and hearing Jesus say He was going to be crucified like a common criminal, his human side totally rejected that thought.
The forgiveness of our sins, and our eternal life with the Father and His Son, rested entirely upon Jesus being on that cross; it was God’s plan and a divine necessity. There was a sin debt that must be paid and man couldn’t pay it: in great mercy and grace, out of His unfailing love, God Himself paid our sin debt and set us free. By obedience to His Father through death on the cross, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name—Lord! Philippians 2:9
Jesus insists that His followers deny themselves. What does that mean? It simply means that you and I must demand of ourselves that Christ has the rule over our lives; anything less means you are unwilling and want to rule your life yourself. The old man wants what he wants, when he wants it, and how he wants it. On becoming a new creature in Christ, the order is reversed; we want what Christ wants.
How can we know what Christ wants? “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” “Anyone who loves Me will obey my teaching.” Matthew 4:4/John 14:23
The will of God and Jesus Christ is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. If we truly want the Lord Jesus to have rule over our lives, we will give ourselves to reading and meditating on His words. This will require a denial of some of your time doing other things, but is absolutely essential to your walk with Christ.
We love the public sign of the cross; but the real cross that Christ insists we bear is not visible. It is the daily crucifying of our old man’s desires, wants and wishes: to daily kill our selfishness and think of others; to love others as we love ourselves. The cross is crucifying worldly lusts and ungodliness. The cross of Christ promises us that if we die to this world, we shall one day rule and reign with Him, forever.
The sign of the cross is the death of the old man. If we won’t bear the cross, we won’t wear the crown.
Brother Bill is a Bible teacher and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org