An area of Christian teaching that we don't hear too much about is that we must keep our thinking and fleshly desires in check. This is not a popular teaching, but necessary if anyone truly desires to be a follower and disciple of Jesus. It also includes our conversations and associations with people. Our thinking and actions must be brought into conformity with God's will and ways.
To do this we must deny ourselves, if necessary, of our own desires, pleasures, and live a life of "trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:10) Following are passages that emphasize this.
Matthew 16:24-26, 10:38. Deny yourself and take up your cross to follow Christ. Following Jesus means to be willing to go where He would go even though it may be inconvenient or uncomfortable.
Luke 6:46 speaks of obedience.
In I Corinthians 6:12 and 18 it says we must seek mastery over sin and wrong influences.
II Corinthians 7:1 exhorts us to have a disciplined life of holiness. See also II Timothy 2:22.
II Corinthians 10:3-5 says we must bring our thinking into the obedience of Christ. This is also reinforced in Romans 12:2.
I Peter 1:14-16 commands us to be holy out of obedience.
I John 2:15-16 tells us to forsake the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life."
I Thess.4:3-8 warns that we are not even in God's will if we do not abstain from sexual immorality and that God's purpose for us is sanctification.
It is necessary to not allow ourselves to be exposed to any media, develop any relationships, read any books, or engage in any activities that are counterproductive, in cooperation with God's Holy Spirit and grace, to produce a life in conformity with His will and ways, and one that will result in mastery over the fleshly desires and wrong thinking.
The Christian life is not meant to always be an easy, or "feel-good-all-the-time" kind of thing. Some people make it seem like it ought to be, though, when they teach prosperity theology, or all grace with no judgment, or all blessing with no adversity. Does this mean never having any fun? Of course not. What it does mean is experiencing the abundant life that Jesus said we could have in John 10:10, an abundance of peace, love, joy, freedom from bondage and addictions, and freedom to become all that God created you and me to be.
I struggle with this. My "want-to" is not always what it should be. That is my sin nature raising its ugly head. The Apostle Paul had the same frustration mentioned in Romans 7:15-23. In addition to this Paul was told he would suffer when God called him to the ministry. Refer to Acts 9:15-16. This runs counter to what we often hear preached.
What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus? This is not any interpretation but simply my opinion. It means to be focused on one's purpose. It means to do what must be done even though it my be difficult. Most importantly, taking up one's cross might mean going through adversity for the sake of helping someone else experience God's grace and forgiveness, or for the purpose of advancing God's message of salvation and healing.
Paul says in Philippians 3:8 that he counts "all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ."