“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” MATTHEW 16:24
We are naturally born self-centered. Babies cry when they are hungry, sleepy, or sick. They seek attention when they badly need something, which is part of our fallen nature as humans. As we grow up, we also practice our human rights. We make the most out of all our privileges.
However, we find it challenging to surrender these rights when obeying God. We take our freedom for granted, causing us to live a life according to our desires. This is called self-entitlement, which hinders our growth as followers of Jesus.
But according to the Bible, three acts sum up the life of a true and faithful Christian— denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Him.
To deny yourself means to say “no” to your selfish and ungodly desires. It means surrendering all to Jesus, letting Him take complete control of your life. To deny yourself is to have the willingness to let go of your rights in pursuit of God. This also requires seeking the good of others, putting their rights before yours.
On the other hand, taking up your cross signifies ultimate submission to one’s authority. Just like in the old Roman tradition, the worst criminals were required to carry their crosses through the streets to the crucifixion site. But take note, this act is one-way only. They didn’t go back and forth carrying the cross. They showed commitment despite the pain and humiliation.
When Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me,” He didn’t mean to seek pain endlessly when we follow Him. Instead, He meant that it would take a heroic effort for us to come after Him. He says that we have to endure the pain and suffering that comes with obedience.
Jesus doesn’t let us do something that He has not done Himself. He also denied Himself, took up His cross, and followed the will of God. And if we fully understand why He sacrificed for us, we will make following Him a commitment. This doesn’t happen overnight. It is a conscious effort that we must decide on moment by moment. So today, let Jesus reign in your life and live the life of a true and faithful Christian.