You have definitely heard it said many times in church that you are to take up your cross daily and follow Christ. Many times the message comes across as having to bear a horrible situation, thinking that it is God’s will for your life. Does it really mean that it is a way to make you bear a burden that seems too heavy for you?
The Scripture that will form our discussion today is Luke 9:23, where Jesus tells us that if we want to be His disciples, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. As we reflect on it, we see that Jesus meant something different from what we have come to know as the meaning of the Bible verse.
How do you Take up your Cross Daily?
Jesus died on the Cross to redeem us from our sins. It was a cruel death where He was tortured before He gave up His Spirit. The Cross was a place of death for Him, and it was for the benefit of mankind.
When we take up our cross daily to follow Christ, we are actually “dying to self.” We are giving up our lives to live the life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). As believers, we no longer live for ourselves but for Christ, who died for us (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Following Christ as His disciples means that we have to give up those things that hinder us from walking with Him daily. We give up our worldly lives and trade them in for a life that advances the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ disciples had to give up their day jobs as fishermen so that they could follow Him and be fishers of men (Matthew 4:21-22).
When you look at the lives of those who served God, even in the Old Testament, they had to leave their normal lives and go where God was leading them. Following Christ comes at a cost, and that is what He was trying to show us when He said that we should take up our cross and follow Him.
Taking up your cross daily means that you focus on what God desires for you as opposed to living life as you please. God has a daily plan for your life, and as you talk to Him daily, He will reveal it to you. This is a call for choosing whether to accept His plan or follow yours. As His child, I’m sure you always long to go with God’s plan for your life.
The cost of following Jesus is not easy, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can take up our cross and not see it as a burden. In the next section, I will explain in detail what it means to take up your cross daily.
Taking up your Cross Daily Means
• No Looking Back
One time Jesus was telling those who followed Him the cost of discipleship. He told them that one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).
These people were telling Him that they had things to do before they could follow Him. One said that he wanted to bury his parents first, and another said that he wanted to say goodbye to his family. Jesus rebuked them and made them understand that following Him meant that they had to leave their precious things behind.
Nothing is more precious than following our Savior and being part of the miracles He performs in the lives of others. We cannot be part of this experience if we keep looking back at what we have left behind.
Taking up your cross daily means that you focus on Christ and forget about everything that holds you back from your relationship with Him. It does not mean abandoning your family, but it simply means that Jesus should be your daily priority.
If we want to be effective in advancing the gospel, then we have to be ready to go wherever God wants us to go. Abraham had to leave his father’s household and follow God to a destination he did not know (Genesis 12:1). He had to obey because his blessings were tied to him, leaving behind the idolatry of his father’s house and going to where he could worship God.
• Living for God and not the Flesh
Taking up our cross daily means living for God and not the flesh. As believers of Jesus, we are told in 1 Peter 4:2 that we should no longer live the rest of our days fulfilling the lusts of the flesh but for the will of God. We are used to fulfilling the desires of our flesh, and struggle to be in the will of God. Every day we face this battle, and the only way to win it is to remember that Christ set us free from slavery to sin.
We have what it takes to overcome the desires of the flesh and focus on the things of God. It can feel overwhelming sometimes, but we must always remember that God is an ever-present help to us. He is ready to help us overcome our struggles and live a life that pleases Him. It is not a battle we can win on our own, and that is why we need the help of the Holy Spirit daily.
The cost of being a disciple of Christ does not have to weigh us down because God is ready to help us win and make it to the very end. He has the power to help us live by the Spirit and not the flesh so that we can have peaceful and joyful lives. By taking up our cross daily, we are choosing to live by the Spirit of God and forsaking the desires of our flesh.
• You Have Been Crucified with Christ
Galatians 2:20 tells us that we have been crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. It means that we bear the cross of Christ daily in our lives because He lives in us. We are one with Him, and He works through us to touch the lives of others. As we take up our cross daily, He is there with us because He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.
Living a life in Christ means that we must be ready to bear many things for His sake. We will face persecution and opposition, yet we must carry on with our journey of salvation and be faithful to our Savior. Being crucified with Christ means that we are in a covenant relationship with Him, and we must honor it daily, no matter the cost.
As we focus on living our new life in Christ, what He did for us on the Cross should be at the fore of our minds daily. It is the reason that we live in freedom. Being crucified with Christ is not an easy life but one we live by the grace of God.
• Forsaking our Possessions
Following Christ means that we give up the things we hold dear so that we can become His disciples (Luke 14:33). It is hard following Him when we spend our days worrying about our possessions and what they mean to us. No one likes to give up the things they hold dear, yet the cost of following Christ means that we let them go. This is definitely a cross to bear, and many don’t see how they can possibly do this.
One time, Jesus told a rich young ruler that he had to give up his possessions to follow Him. This man had been asking Jesus how he can get saved. Giving up his material possessions seemed out of the question for him, and he walked away disappointed. What this young man didn’t know was that his possessions had possessed his heart, and he had no room for Jesus.
When our possessions have a hold on our heart, it is hard for us to follow Jesus. This young man decided not to take up his cross and follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). He could not leave behind what he valued the most, and this meant that he did not value Jesus or His words that much.
When we are asked to forsake our possessions, it does not mean that we give out everything we have and end up with nothing. Instead, we are to use the things God has blessed us with for the advancement of His Kingdom and blessing the less fortunate. Forsaking our possessions means that we don’t set our hearts on them so that we can easily share them with others as God leads us.
• Losing your Life for Christ
When Jesus asks us to take up our cross daily and follow Him, He is saying that we should not hold on to our lives but give them up for Him. Instead of being focused on the pleasures and comforts of life, we should be willing to get uncomfortable so that we can follow Christ as His disciples.
In Matthew 16:25, Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Him will find it. There is always the temptation to spend time doing things that give us pleasure in the world and not spend time focusing on God and serving Him. Yet, the things we give our attention to are things without eternal value.
As believers, we are to focus on things above and not on earthly things. Things on earth are fleeting, and they only act as distractions to our relationship with God. God did not give us life so that we may live it as we please. He had a purpose for each of us. When we give our lives over to God, He can do amazing things through us for the sake of His Kingdom.
The apostle Paul was at one time living for himself when he was persecuting Christians and having them thrown in jail for following Christ. It all changed when he had an encounter with Jesus. From that point on, Paul lived for Christ and preached the gospel to the Gentiles. He no longer lived for himself or the traditions of his fathers. But he lived for God and advanced the gospel to nations that did not know God.
Taking up your cross daily has a much deeper meaning, and as you meditate on God’s Word, He will reveal it to you. If you look at the lives of people like Abraham, Elisha, King David, Jeremiah, Samson, among others, they left behind the familiar to pursue God’s dream for them. It is the same thing that Jesus expects of us as His disciples.
When Jesus gave us the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, this called for a life set apart for Him. That was the only way His disciples would be able to pull off this assignment. The beauty of it is that He promised to always be there with them because He knew they would need Him along the way.
Working for Christ means that you will face a lot of negative things that may make you want to quit. That is why you have to take up your cross daily, knowing that Jesus is there with you along the way. He too had someone who helped Him carry His cross to the place where He would be crucified.
Taking up your cross daily is a positive thing, not a negative one. Once you understand this, you will see that there is no other way of being an effective Christian.
As you take up your cross today, praise God for bringing you this far in life and for everything He has done through you, enabling you to touch the lives of others. If you struggle to take up your cross daily, pray and ask for God’s help, He is your ever-present help in your time of need.
Dr. Stanley summerises it all in this short message. Enjoy!
Hope this Word has given your more understanding of the true meaning of taking up the cross daily. Please let me know what it means to you.