And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
What does it mean to deny our self and take up our cross daily?
As I sat thinking about this, I thought I had a pretty good idea about what it meant to deny oneself, but I couldn't get the phrase "take up his cross daily, and follow me" from my mind.
When Jesus took up his cross, He was on His way to be crucified. This wasn't an easy way to die, and it wasn't something that Jesus technically had to do. He had the power to stop it from happening. Yet He went willingly and selflessly to give His life for others. It was the ultimate sacrifice.
So when Jesus tells me that I need to take up my cross daily and follow Him, I know that it's more than just a casual phrase or turn of speech. He was talking about something that was equated with pain and death. Although others might not have understood how much it related to sacrifice, He knew. And after His death, I'm sure this teaching took on deeper meaning.
To take up a cross in Jesus' time meant physical pain and death. But that's not generally what He requires of His followers. No, what He wants is for us to willingly sacrifice our self- to give up our selfish desires, our pride, and our sins. And if we did just that, we would probably be pretty justified in considering ourselves righteous. But I think what Jesus requires of us is so much more.
Not only do we have to take up our cross, to be willing to let our "self" die, but we need to do it for a greater purpose than our own salvation. To truly take up our cross and follow Him, we must sacrifice our self willingly and for someone else. I think that's the key. It's one thing to deny ourselves: to stop sinning and to be "good," but it's a far higher level to deny our self and to sacrifice our self for the sake of another. To lose our life means more than just giving service, it means that we give up our pride and our selfish desires. If we "save" our self at the expense of helping another, we have actually lost our life. Because a life lived for self is a life lived in vain. It is only through sacrificing our own wants and needs for the benefit of another that we come close to becoming like our Savior. This is a daily requirement. And I think that's important, too. Because if we only made sacrifices for others every once in awhile, we would be following Jesus half-heartedly. To commit to Jesus is to accept the challenge of the cross. It's not easy, and it's not painless, but it's worth it. If we will lose our life for His sake, i.e. to do what He wants us to do, He will save us.