And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Isn’t that the hardest thing to do sometimes—to deny ourselves? Our flesh is weak. Our selfishness can be all-consuming. We want what we want, and sometimes it is hard to let go of that. Sometimes we just don’t want to follow because the path is steep. Sometimes we don’t want to let go because whatever we must release means something to us. Sometimes that journey of following Jesus takes us away from our comfort zone, and we don’t want to be uncomfortable. We don’t want to go without. We don’t want to forsake our own way.
But that’s why it has to be a daily walk, a rededication to following Christ every day. It is a decision we must make, something we must purposely choose to do. Jesus has to be more important to us than even ourselves. And so we must take up our cross—not as a burdensome thing we must constantly bear, but as the instrument of death to crucify our flesh anew and follow Christ unhindered each day.
Jesus carried His cross, and it took Him all the way to Calvary. The end of that was His death, a total surrender to God, a willing obedience to God’s plan, full submission. Hanging there on the cross, He held on to nothing of Himself, but truly gave His all. And that is what following Christ requires of us. We must choose God’s way over our own. We must choose what He wants for us over what we want for ourselves. We must be willing to surrender every part of our lives to Him and His will. We must make that ultimate sacrifice to give all to Him.
But let us also remember the reason that Jesus took that walk with a cross on His back. He went to give His life, yes, to pay our penalty for sin, but the motivation behind that was love. And so though the cross was heavy, He endured. Though it was excruciatingly painful, He kept going. Though He could have refused to continue on at any time along the way, He went all the way to the end because He loves us so much. And a life spent following Jesus won’t be easy. We’ll get tired and discouraged. We’ll falter at times. The burdens can sometimes seem overwhelming. But may we continue on anyway, spurred by a love for Christ that inspires us to do whatever it takes, to finish our course, and to please our Lord, leaving all of our self behind.