Return to the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus.
I have read this several times. I understood the "deny himself" part, but didn't really get what "take up the cross DAILY" really meant.
Our Lord clearly states a condition here that if ANY man desires to follow Him, then they are to deny themselves, pick up their cross daily and follow Him.
It has always been my deepest desire to consecrate my life wholly to Him. I definitely wanted to and still do want to keep my thoughts pure, my life pure and guard my heart from sinful and ungodly worldly desires. But that's a lot easier said than done. We are sinful by nature and its a constant battle each day to steer away from our natural tendencies.
There are days or weeks together when our walk with the Lord is absolutely fantastic, our prayer time is awesome, we worship with all of our heart and even at times hear Him speak to us. There is this unexplainable peace within us despite a storm outside our lives. But then, there comes a day suddenly when we stumble. This could even be a possible addictive behaviour that caused you to stumble or a bout of depression or momentary discouragement perhaps that just caused you to snap at someone. A relationship is seemingly destroyed.
You know you are forgiven and you know you can run back to the Lord of course. But have you noticed how hard it is to worship, to pray and to feel confident entering into His presence? This is of course not because He doesn't love us anymore, but because we fell short of His glory....yet again. These are times when its really hard or near impossible to hear His voice.
Intimacy with the Lord.....the very thing we cherish and enjoy so much now becomes a struggle to regain due to our own self imposed battles.
The bible says in 1 John 2:16, "For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world."
All of our struggles can be categorized under one of the above three. The bible teaches us that these are not from our Father but from the world.
Paul describes his struggle in Romans 7: 14-24
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!
This is so true of all of us, but if we read it right it must cause us to cling to Christ all the more. Because apart from Him, we can do nothing....not even live a holy consecrated life. Paul says in 2 Cor 11:30, I'll boast in my weaknesses that Christ might be glorified.
This is why it is essential for us to deny ourselves, take up our cross DAILY and follow Him. In other words, consider yourselves dead to this sinful nature and live in the newness of life we have in Christ Jesus. This is not automatic. This takes effort. A conscious effort to remind yourself that you are a child of God, a new creation in Christ; a creation that didn't exist before and that you are not of this world. You are "born again" aren't you? That means you are now born of God and therefore are not the same person you used to be. According to Romans 8:1 "There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". And it goes on to say "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death". There was a law against sin, which brought in guilt and condemnation. But now, the bible says we are free from that law of sin and death. Romans 6:14 says "Sin shall not have dominion over you....why? because you are not under law but under grace". Wow! that means sin has no power to condemn me because I have no law against the wrong doing. I am under the unmerited and undeserving favor and grace of God.
Reminding ourselves of this every day causes us to remember that when Christ died, we died and when Christ rose from the grave, we rose with Him. Doing this every day and making a conscious effort to consider ourselves dead to sin will actually free us from the very thing that holds us in bondage. That's taking up our cross daily.
I want to encourage you friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord. The Lord wishes for us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily for our own sakes. This is not a demand He puts on us. He wants intimacy with us and He knows that we are at our best when we are intimate with Him. Always remember, nothing has changed from the Lords perspective. He does not reject you each time you stumble and then embrace you again a week later. You are saved, He still loves you the same as He always did, you can confess your sins and He still is faithful and just to forgive you, He wants you to be free more than you want to be free, He laid down His life for you for this very reason....He knows you can't do this on your own.
The reality is that WE let guilt take over and lose confidence in approaching Him. This is pride. Humble yourself, cry out to Him and talk to Him about how you desire to be holy , ask Him to make you holy because you cant do it yourself and believe He will do it. After all its His goal to transform us into the likeness of His son. This was never your goal. So don't make it yours.
The best solution to deny yourself and take up your cross daily:
Over years of my own battles, the Lord in His great mercy has taught me something. The more we focus on ourselves, the more we struggle. This includes focusing on our own desire to be holy and consecrated to God. The more I wanted to serve God and kept a constant watch on my life, actions and thoughts, the more I struggled each day. The more often I stumbled.
But when you begin to serve people, love the lost, and start sharing the gospel message with the lost, you suddenly realize, you have far lesser battles with self. Denying yourself and taking up your cross daily surprisingly becomes possible. Consider Mother Theresa or Billy Graham or anybody else (am sure there are many) who dedicated their lives to serving others; do you think they had "time" for struggles such as you and I do? Probably not....They must have surely had some mental "thought" battles, but am sure they didn't have enough time to "dwell" on them. Why? Because the needs of the people they served were far greater than their own needs.
The key to all of this is quite simple. Keep your eyes transfixed on Jesus every day and every moment. Remind yourself how blessed you are to be saved and be extremely grateful and never lose an opportunity to share the gospel with someone who does not know the Lord. The more you give out to others, the less you struggle with yourself.
I was radically transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ back in 1997 in a most unusual way and unusual place. Read my testimony here. Over the years of my walk with God, I have come to realize a few basic truths that have altered my life.
True freedom is freedom from self-centeredness. Dying to yourself, your wants, your desires and to what gives you pleasure for the sake of others is more liberating than you think.