“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (Matthew 16:24 [NASB])
We may have read this verse of Scripture in the past or for the first time just now. Each time you may have wondered what that really means. “Surely Jesus didn’t mean we had to carry a cross around,” we say. “Surely Jesus didn’t mean we couldn’t work or have a family or have a home,” we think. With this verse, Jesus told His followers then and through eternity, to be His disciples, the ones who follow Him, we must deny all rights to our self to Him. We must trust God so much that we will do His will no matter what He asks of us. The cross is the pain of following God’s will. Jesus didn’t wake one morning and say, “I must have nails put into my hands.” The purpose of the cross for Jesus was to do His Father’s will, to provide salvation for all who would believe in Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
We may think, “I can’t do that. How can I trust God, Who I cannot see, to take care of me and give me what I want and need?” That question is the apex of the problem for people. First, all we want is not what we need. It places our desires for more ahead of God and shows our discontent for what God has given us. We want more, more, more like a child in a toy store. That question shows we have not given ourselves wholly to God. Maybe you truly gave your heart to Jesus in your past, but when you ask this question, you show you have not grown in your knowledge or relationship with God. You show you do not trust Him to lead your life to “green pastures” like David wrote in Psalm 23. Now is the time to resolve that dilemma. We each individually must decide if we truly will be followers of Jesus. Doing that will mean giving up our right to ourselves and trusting God in everything and for everything. Trusting in God is the key. If you cannot do this, then you should wonder if you truly have been saved.
The second part of this ultimate question, “How can I trust God to take care of me,” shows our lack of faith in God’s love and power. If you cannot trust God for this, then can you truly say you’ve truly trusted Jesus for your salvation. God’s love is the backbone, the reason, for the salvation He provides. If you do not believe in God’s love, you do not trust God saves or can save you from your sins and the ultimate penalty of sins, death. This last thing, being saved from death, or your lack of trust that God can save you from death, shows you do not believe He has the power to save you from what every person you’ve ever known or heard about has experienced, ceasing to be alive on earth.
Trust is the key for both parts of the first question. Without trust, faith, in God’s power to forgive our sins, provide for our needs, and save us from death and sin, and in His love, you cannot deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus. You have no power to deny yourself. You have no strength of conviction to carry a cross for God’s purposes, and you show you are not willing to follow Jesus. Trust in Jesus, in God, is the only thing we need to do to receive salvation from our sins and from death. If you cannot believe in Jesus as God’s Son for salvation, you cannot do what Jesus said His followers must do in Matthew 16:24.
Do you really trust God? Do you trust His love for you, and His power to forgive your sins and give you eternal life? If you can truthfully say yes to these questions, then you truly are a follower of Jesus. So, what keeps you from doing what Jesus told His followers to do? What keeps you from doing God’s will with your life, that is “taking up your cross and following Him (Jesus)”? Be honest with yourself. Examine your heart, mind, and spirit. What keeps you from giving God your whole being-heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Without living for Jesus, your boat has no compass. You motor or paddle around aimlessly until your strength or the gas in the motors is gone. That’s it and life is done. Nothing more remains for you. Living for Jesus gives you a compass and purpose. Your purpose is to follow Jesus, to deny yourself, take up your cross (doing God’s will), and following Him.
Don’t live without a compass.
Trust in God. You will have a purpose.
Lord, I thought I believed in You. I thought I trusted in You. But now I read your Word and think about it, I realize I have not entrusted my whole life to You. Please, Lord, forgive me for holding back and for not taking up my cross and following You. Forgive me for living life on my terms and only trusting You for that moment I decided to be saved. I realize, I never allowed You to have my heart and life. Lord, I give them now to You. Take all of me, my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Grow me to be more like You and use me for Your purposes. Use me for whatever You will. I will deny myself, take up my cross, and follow You. Amen.