If you have been in a church or around Christians for any length of time, you may have heard the phrases “crucified with Christ” or being “dead to sin” brought up. Or you may not have. These phrases are difficult to talk about and even more difficult to live out in our everyday lives. In order to truly live these things out means our lives will be affected in many ways. Everything comes down to the fact that, as Christians, we are called upon to abandon our selfish ways of doing things and allowing God to live in and through our lives everyday. We are going to be looking at some of the things that God calls us to let go of and change in our lives in order to be His disciples. Abandoning these things will be extremely difficult because we are humans and it is in our nature to be selfish and want to control every aspect of our own lives. It is that selfishness that lies in the way of us being completely dependent upon God and allowing Him to live through us.
One of the many interesting things that Jesus said during his ministry is found in Matthew 16:24 when he says to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” There are three things that Jesus mentions in this verse that are essential to being a disciple of Christ: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. These things all have a significant meaning for the disciples during Jesus’ time and gives us great insight into how we should live our lives as His followers today.
First, Jesus tells the disciples to deny themselves. But what exactly does that mean? I believe that it means there are things in each of our lives that keep us from completely following Christ from time to time and we must deal with those things instead of working around them. There is selfishness, pride, habits, pet sins, desires and many other things that keep us from being what God wants us to be and that all falls into the command from Jesus to deny ourselves. We are to practice self-discipline rather than just going with the flow. But how do we deny ourselves? If you know that you have a weakness, do you continually put yourself in a situation where you will be tempted to give in to the temptation? Denying yourself means that you become aware of things that would keep you from being what God wants you to be and you make a conscious effort to change those things. If you are tempted to say or do things that you know aren’t right when you are around certain people, make an effort to distance yourself from those people. This may seem radical and overboard in some cases, but in order for us to be followers of Christ, we are going to have to be radical at times.
Second, Jesus tells His disciples to take up their cross. Does Jesus mean for His disciples to literally pick up a cross and start walking with it? I honestly don’t think that is the point that Jesus was making. I believe that the main idea that Jesus was trying to get across was for His disciples not to be “riding the fence” so to speak, or doing things half-heartedly, but rather to go all out. He wanted them to fully identify themselves as being His followers or not do it at all. When the disciples took up their cross, they were saying no to themselves and yes to Christ. As His followers, when we take up our cross, we are turning our backs on our selfishness and our own way of doing things and saying yes to Christ; we are telling Him that His ways are better than our own.
Third, Jesus told his disciples to follow Him. This action was an outward demonstration of the decision that the disciples had made. They put action behind their words and beliefs. How did they do this? They followed Jesus in the physical sense throughout the remainder of His ministry. They also followed His teachings for their own lives and shared the message of the Gospel with everyone they came in contact. Even after Jesus was crucified, buried, rose from the dead, and ascended back into Heaven, the disciples continued to follow the teachings of Jesus and they increased in number daily, as recorded in the Book of Acts. In the end, many of them ultimately follow Jesus to their deaths.
What is Jesus calling on you to let go of today? Is it pride? Your selfish wants? To be a disciple of Christ, you must first deny yourselves the selfish wants and desires then take up your cross (identify yourself with Christ), then put some action behind those decisions: follow Him.