Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
– Matthew 16:24-26 NASB
Following Jesus means denying ourselves. How do we do that? The apostle Paul answers this way:
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
– 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NASB
So, we stop living for ourselves and live instead for Him. Another way of saying this is that we cease trying to be master of our own lives and make Him master of them. That simply means that we do what He wants instead of what we want.
To do this requires faith in His goodness – trust that following His instructions will lead to a better life than following our desires.
What about, however, this “taking up our cross” thing? Paul puts it this way (in a verse we have studied in one of our prior daily devotions):
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
– Galatians 2:20 NASB
That is, we accept Christ’s death as our own. We’re living a whole new life: in loving submission to His will. Such imagery is not overly dramatic; it is necessary to achieve the transition.
Note that Jesus says we take up the cross “daily.” This is because each day is a temptation to go back to our old way of living. We must not yield to that temptation. We must live each new day unto Him – not unto ourselves. Most of our disappointments in life occur on a day we have ignored Jesus’ instructions in this passage.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, show me the difference between living this day for You and living it for myself…so that I may live it for You…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.