“23 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. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” (Lu 9:23-24 KJ21)
How can we best understand these words? This is Jesus' condition for discipleship (If any man would come after me".
1. Deny yourself
2. Take up your cross
3. Follow me
Deny yourself. Many men have tried to live a self-denied life, depriving themselves of food, or fellowship, or love, only to find that self is an overwhelming opponent. What we have failed to see that "self-deprivation" is ITSELF an act of self. There is no holiness achieved. Self-righteousness, to be sure, but not the holiness that God demands. What does Jesus have in mind here, then? Is it possible that He has commanded His disciples to do the impossible? Yes. Impossible for man, but "with God all things are possible". Says the Apostle Peter:
“His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2Pe 1:3 KJ21)
The key then is Knowing Him who called us, and turning away from reliance on ourselves. I always share with my wife that the gospel is as easy as ABC. Admit you are powerless. Believe that Jesus has already won the victory. Confess these things with your mouth. Simple, and yet . . . How many of us are given the privilege of the revelation of our utter helplessness?
Take up your cross. I would understand this via James chapter one.
“2 ¶ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, 3 knowing this: that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4 KJ21)
How can we consider suffering and trials joyous? How can we never, ever complain, or try to maneuver our way out? Could "take up" = accept with joy? If we see it, saints, yes, if we but see it! This is why we live not "by bread alone" but by every Word that comes from Father. Read the eighth chapter of Romans. Comparing this present suffering with the glory to be revealed in us, well, Paul says, it's all worth it. If I am giving up what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose, brother Elliot, I have walked wisely.
The Christian life is not difficult. It's IMPOSSIBLE. Only one man has ever lived it. But here's the good news: HE"S ALIVE! And He continues to live his life through his body, the church. Only by abandoning trust in ourselves can we achieve what God requires. Even Jesus Himself learned obedience as a son, and could do only that which He saw His Father doing. In this we follow in His steps, trusting not in ourselves, but in Him who has overcome the world.