Journal Entry // Mach 19, 2021
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.Luke 9:23 ESV
Daily… Surely I have read this passage dozens of times throughout my life. It is one of those familiar passages that lose some of the nuance and impact because of how often they are repeated. Over time my brain has filtered out the word ‘daily’. Usually when I hear this taught or when I read it for myself, I mostly think about this passage in the sense of when we come to Christ for the first time. Or I may think about it in the faulty notion that I am already obedient in this. Which is true in some sense, as I think about carrying Christ’s sacrifice on the cross before me.
But I have been missing the thrust of this message deep in my heart for many years. If I am to seek Christ with all my heart, then these things are required.
1. Deny myself – what does it really mean to deny myself? I’m sure there are lots of commentators, scholars, and leaders who each have an opinion on the true nature of denying yourself. Deep theological truth to expound on this crucial element. Yet, doesn’t it simply mean that I am not the center of the universe. That my pride and arrogance and self-centeredness will always bend me towards satisfying the desires of my eyes and flesh. That when I deny myself, I put aside my desire and lusting after the things of this world to satisfy the cravings of my flesh.
2. Take up his cross – I find it interesting that I should take up ‘my’ cross and not the cross of Christ. I probably have really only thought about this in the sense of what Christ has done for me on the cross and leading with that in my life. This is well and good and important, but not what Christ says. I am to take up my own cross. I am to imitate Christ in the manner with which he took up the cross. As I deny myself, I take upon myself obedience, humility, and perseverance. To take up my cross is to persevere in the faith seeking to emulate my Savior in every way. So in every way, my cross is a reminder to humble myself before the Lord. That the path of faith is not an easy carefree journey.
3. Follow Him – but it all hinges on this last step. When I have denied myself and taken up my cross, then I follow Christ. In order to follow him I must keep my eyes focused on him alone. To go where he leads. To go with his purposes before me. His way will be difficult to be sure. As I am already denying myself and I am already carrying my cross, I humbly follow him. Wherever that road leads… be faithful and true to his leading.
How often? Every day! It is not enough to do this as I feel motivated or even during special events and times. No, I am to do this daily. Why daily? Because every morning my flesh longs to gratify its own desires. Sin crouches at my side seeking an opportunity. If I am not vigilant in these the areas, then sin will find a way into my heart. It may take months or even years, but sin will bring darkness to my heart and will subtly draw me away from Jesus even as I convince myself it is not. The pull of my heart toward self is so strong. It needs constant attention to keep it restrained. These three steps are the key. A daily key that must be applied and reapplied.
Every single day is a new invitation from Christ. An invitation to come with him on my personal journey of faith. He’s not asking my to go out alone. Quite the opposite. The purpose in all of this is to follow him. To sacrifice my sinful desires and ambitions and take up his desires and ambitions for me. Then come after him in obedience and faith with humility. Taking up my cross, just as he demonstrated for me.