Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. ( Matthew 16:24 KJV)
At the beginning of 2022 the Holy Spirit spoke these words to me. Get ready to die in 2022. He wasn’t referring to a physical death ( but who knows 🤷) but rather the Holy Spirit was referring to a death of self and selfish desires. While not necessarily bad. May not be what God desires for my life. In the above scripture Jesus gave his disciples three things that they must do if they were to come after Him.
1.) Deny himself Jesus said that if a person were to come after him. That he first must be willing to deny himself. According to Merriam-Webster to deny means to restrain oneself from gratification or desires. Jesus was letting his disciples know that if anyone should come after me. They must give up sinful/fleshly desires. The two can never go hand in hand. We can never truly follow after Christ trying to live a worldly lifestyle. When I look at the word gratification it is the giving of pleasure or satisfaction. So Jesus was telling his disciples that one must be willing to deny themselves the gratifications of this world. Those things includes things like fleshly lust whether it be of a sexual nature. Things such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality. Or the gratification for fast money which usually means money that is gained by illegal means. Selling of drugs, theft and robbery. Flesh gratification can include things like drugs and alcohol. It can also include things such as lying or backstabbing, gossiping, gluttony, covetousness and being willing to step over someone to climb the top of the ladder. All these things plus much more would be considered desires of the flesh. Jesus makes it plain that we have to restrain our selves from such lustful desires. In 1 Peter 1:15-16 But he that called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; (16) Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. To be holy means to be dedicated or consecrated (set apart for a sacred purpose). God will never ask us to deny ourselves without giving us something to replace it with. The more we deny ourselves of sinful desires the more of the things of the Holy Spirit begin to take root. Things such as the desire to want to please God. Having love for one another. We will begin to display the fruits of the Spirit, but Holiness and worldliness cannot coexist. That is why to come after Jesus we must deny ourselves.
2.) Take up his cross the cross was an instrument of death. So when Jesus implies that we are to take up our cross. He is saying following God unto death. Meaning that our lives is no longer our own. The apostle Paul. Tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:31 I die daily. So Paul is letting us know that in this walk with Christ. That we must die daily. Which means that everyday we must put our flesh under subjection. We must put it under the subjection to the will of God. To take up ones cross means to bear our burdens. It is not easy to put our flesh under subjection. The cross was not only an instrument of death, but it was also something that was heavy to bare. Jesus tells us however that if we are to come after him. Then we must be willing to die to self. Sometimes that could mean dying to the way that you think that your life should have turned out. That’s what the Holy Spirit was telling me at the beginning of 2022. To get ready to die to what I had planned for my life and fully embrace what God has planned for me. I am learning that to take up our cross to follow after Jesus means to put to death our plans and trade it in for his purpose.
3.) Follow Him the third thing that Jesus tells us to do is to follow him. He is talking about truly following him. To follow Jesus means to trust that he knows where he is leading you. That he knows the best route for our lives. Many people have the mistaken impression that when we follow Christ that everything will turn out how we want for it to turn out. We are willing to follow him in the good. How about in the bad? To follow Jesus does not mean always knowing where he is leading you. Especially in troubling times. Just know that even in troubling times Jesus is leading us to a place of peace. In Mark 10:32 scripture tells us And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen to him. Jerusalem means city of peace. So in the gospel of Mark. Scripture tells us. That as the people followed Jesus. That they were amazed and at times they were also afraid. All the while, Jesus was leading them to a specific designation. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to follow him up to a certain point. To follow him as long as things were going good. Following Jesus is a guarantee that he will lead you through some places that you nor I would rather not go. That’s following afraid. It’s the time where were the most tempted to give up. In order to come after Jesus we must be willing to follow him. Again that goes back to denying ourselves. To follow after Christ means that we can’t chase after the world and the things of this world.
He must increase, but I must decrease ( John 3:30)
This is what John the Baptist told his disciples and the Jews. When they came to him. Letting him know that more and more people were going to Jesus instead of coming to John. John replied in verses 27-28 that a man can receive nothing, except it be given to him from heaven (28) ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. John the Baptist was saying my job or my calling is to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. To lead others to him. He must increase, but I must decrease. That verse as short as it is must be the focal point to any and everyone in ministry. We are not leading people to us, but rather we are paving a way to Christ. Therefore we must decrease in order to let God increase. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) to God which means we are to point others to God and not to ourselves.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosever will lose his life for my sake shall find it ( Matthew 16:25 KJV)
Jesus tells his disciples after he tells them the three things that they must do in order to come after Him. That if you are looking to save his life. Meaning enjoying the sins of this world. Will ultimately in the end wind up losing it, but whoever is willing to lose his life for His sake shall find it. In both cases Jesus is referring to the after life. To where we will spend eternity. If we choose to enjoy the pleasures of this life. Which in essence means a life not lived for God then in the end we shall lose our lives ( second death, hell) but if we lose our lives for Christ it is then that we will save our lives ( eternal life, heaven). The choice is up to us whether we save our lives which is to live in sinful pleasures. Or we can choose to die to self and live for God.
Are you ready to fully die for Christ?