Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and Christians all around the world celebrated the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But the resurrection must never be seen in isolation. Why? Because there is no resurrection without death.
Our Lord was condemned as a criminal; He was beaten and scourged; then He was put to death by crucifixion and buried in the tomb. On the third day, a dead Man got up and walked out of His tomb and into the hearts of all those who would, by grace through faith, place their trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting.
Does that describe you?
Now, life everlasting does not begin on the other side of the grave. It begins the moment we transfer our trust from ourselves to Jesus for salvation. At that point, the Christian is living the resurrected life. But, just as with Jesus, there is no resurrected life without death.
The key to understanding today’s verse is found in the phrase, “take up their cross daily.” Jesus’ words were unmistakable to His first century audience; the cross was a cruel death administered by the Roman soldiers. At times, crosses with the enemies of Rome nailed to them would line the roads. So when Jesus said His disciples needed to take up their cross daily, it could only mean one thing: death to the self.
Dying to self begins at the new birth. When we are born again, the old self is put to death—indeed, Paul said “our old self was crucified” (Romans 6:6)—and the new self is brought to life through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. This is a one-time event, but it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the rest of his or her life on this side of the grave, the Christian is to die to self through the lifelong process of sanctification. When we die to self—to our desires, our dreams, our goals, our plans, our ambitions, our will—we begin to live for the Savior. Death to self puts Jesus on His rightful place on the throne of our lives; death to self removes Jesus from the circumference of our lives and places Him in the center.
Remember, death to self is not an option or an add-on. It is foundational to the Christian life. It is the reality of the new birth in Christ—of having been raised from death to life. And it is the goal of every committed Christian, because the more we die to self, the more we live for the Savior. And that is when we begin to live the abundant life that is offered to us in John 10:10.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!