Let’s talk about denying yourself and taking up your cross. Now, I know this is not one of our favorite subjects. We would much rather hear of power and of glory, than of self-denial and of cross-bearing for the cause of Christ. In this, we have something in common with the Apostle Peter because he too did not appreciate hearing Jesus talk about the cross and suffering either.
The Scriptures tell us that “from this time Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests….” Then in verse 22, we are told that Peter took Jesus to the side and began to rebuke him for talking such things. Peter had left his boat and his nets to follow Jesus and he had done so faithfully for three years, but Peter did so thinking that he was following the Messiah who would establish the Messianic Kingdom on earth. And of course, by being so close to Jesus, Peter was banking on being one of Jesus’ chief ministers of government. You see, he had forsaken his net and boat, but he had not forsaken self.
So Peter did not appreciate that the person he thought was the Messiah and who he was depending on to give him earthly power and influence was now talking about suffering, crucifixion and death as part of God’s plan for Him. This was not what he had bargained for. Sure, he was concerned about Jesus and wanted to protect him from such a fate. But even more so, Peter was concerned about Peter, because if such a thing could happen to his leader, it could certainly happen to his followers; and this was not what he had left his boat and nets for.
Is it possible that like Peter you have forsaken your nets and boats in order to be a Christian, but have not forsaken self? I am not talking about forsaking things, comforts, or even certain sins. A person can forsake all of those things and still be living for self.
Listen to Jesus. “If any many will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) The thing that is at the root of our spiritual problems, and that leads to failure and discouragement in our lives is not the individual sins we commit, but the self that commits them. To deal with the sins, while leaving self on the throne is like removing the fruits off a tree while leaving the tree planted in fertile ground. It will be only a matter of time and the fruits will reappear and be even bigger and more numerous. Only when self is denied the right to rule and have its way is the victorious life in Christ possible.
Jesus goes on to say, “whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” This is why Jesus bids all who would follow him into a life of power and glory to follow him first to the cross to be crucified. Without death, there can be no resurrection! So it was with Jesus and so it must be with us. Unless we are willing to die to self fully, we cannot live in Christ fully.
And that is the glorious paradox! Are you willing to die so that you might truly live? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to die daily; then choose to do it, in Jesus Name!