What does it mean to bear our cross and follow Jesus? It means we have to die. We must die to ourselves and live to Christ. We must lose our own life and walk forward in His. We must turn from going our own way and go the way He wants us to go instead. If we are truly believers, this is something that should work itself out more and more in our lives over time.
R. C. Sproul, in his online article “Willing to Die” on the Ligonier Ministries website, offers the following helpful comments: “The cross was a means of execution; thus, Jesus calls us to die. True discipleship puts our lives at risk–a foreign reality to Western believers, admittedly. Still, our values, goals, loves, and activities can and must paint the picture of a people who enduringly serve God’s kingdom, not the present world order. John Calvin says that self-denial is extensive, calling us ‘to give up our natural inclinations, and part with all the affections of the flesh, and thus give our consent to be reduced to nothing, provided that God lives and reigns in us.’”
There is a real and true theological sense in which the believer’s death to self happens positionally at salvation. When we trust in Christ we are crucified with Him. It is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us! And the life we now live in the flesh we must live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
So this death to self is a moment of salvation thing. And it is an every-day-after-that thing as well. Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that we must take up our cross daily. We who belong to Christ Jesus crucified our sinful flesh when we came to Him for salvation, and because of this reality we must also continue to crucify our sinful passions and desires each and every day.
Lord, please grant me the grace I need to take up my cross daily…moment by moment…decision by decision…thought by thought. Help me remember that Jesus loves me and laid down His life for me. Help me live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I want to wake up every day reminding myself that He died for me and that I have been crucified with Him.
Jesus calls us to die to ourselves so that He might live in us. But as a dear friend of mine often says, “The flesh does not want to die. It rages within, it kicks, it screams.” We want to follow the Lord. But our flesh revolts. It whines. It complains. It kicks. It screams. It wants comfort. It wants ease. It wants its own way. It wants to be satisfied. And it doesn’t want to work hard. And so often we listen. It’s so hard not to listen.
But thanks be to God! He has not left us alone in this fight. We have His Holy Spirit who enables us to say no to the flesh and put it to death.
In what ways are you still tempted to live according to the flesh? In what areas have you perhaps put the cross down, feeling like it’s just too heavy to bear? Confess these to God. He longs for us to be sorrowful and broken over sin so that we may find true rest and peace in Him, our Great Comforter. He will provide the solace and the strength that we need to move forward in Him.
Trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within. And by His power put to death the misdeeds of the flesh.
Lord, please help me put my trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. Help me to believe that I am not alone and to understand that I do not have to overcome my sin in my own strength. When I don’t “feel” like I can put to death the misdeeds of the flesh please help me to stop and remember that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives and works in me.
In Jesus’ name I pray,