Luke 9:23 (NIV) Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
The disciples were horrified about the things Jesus said were going to happen to Him: that He would be betrayed, rejected, and killed! Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying such things, and received a rebuke in return (Matthew 16:22-23).
Then Jesus began to teach His followers the costs associated with being a part of the kingdom of God. Some teach that the kingdom is all grace, with nothing expected of those who belong to it. But Jesus never taught it that way. By definition, belonging to the kingdom of God means resigning one’s membership in the kingdom of this world. You can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). It also means having to radically switch allegiances in every sphere of one’s life. That means that, like Jesus, the people of the kingdom will almost always find themselves at odds with, and often opposed by, the rulers of the world system, and those who wield authority in it. There is a huge cost involved in belonging to the kingdom of God.
The key to the kingdom lifestyle is contained in this single verse. Not only is Jesus going to willingly take up a cross Himself, all who want to follow Him must also take up their own cross. To the disciples this phrase meant something entirely different than it does to modern Christians. To many today, a cross is defined as a struggle, a trial, or an inconvenience. But to everyone in Jesus’ day, a cross meant only one thing: an agonizing and absolutely certain death!
Jesus was not saying that His followers would have to be willing to suffer inconveniences or indignities. He was telling them (and us!) that His followers had to be willing to go through the agony of intentionally putting to death their old lives, their old selves, so that they can receive in exchange a new life, a resurrected self, transformed and capable of walking in the power, love, and grace of God’s kingdom.
And this is not a one-time event in the life of a disciples. Every day presents new draws back into the world, new draws toward compromise and sin. Every day, the cross of death to the world must be consciously and deliberately taken up anew. Every day the decision to be a follower of Christ must be consciously and deliberately made.
Father, much of the teaching in many churches ignores the deliberate death to the world and the daily commitment required of true disciples of Jesus. Instead, we assume that once we make a decision for Christ, everything is on autopilot. How different from what is written for us in Your word! How different from the lives of dynamic and effective Christians through the ages, who all took up their crosses each new day and purposefully followed in the footsteps of Jesus. Lord, I commit myself anew today to this way of the cross, this way of death to the world, this way of fully following Jesus. Amen.