And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let them deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
I must do three things if I really want to follow my Lord wherever He leads me. To follow Christ, I must first deny myself, second, take up my cross on a daily basis and third, I must actually follow Him.
Call it what you want: backsliding, plateauing, or simply going through a hard time. Regardless of the terminology you give it, inconsistency in our relationship with the Lord is one of the most difficult obstacles for Christians to overcome. We “desire” to follow Jesus, but we aimlessly drift through our Christian life, sometimes “on,” most of the time “off.”
To follow Christ, you and I must first, deny ourselves. We must take inventory of everything that divides our attention. What desires do you have today? What are your responsibilities? How many of those responsibilities are self-inflicted and how many are from the Lord? To truly follow Jesus on a daily basis, you must ask yourself those three questions every morning. Anything that fails to be a God-given responsibility needs to be placed to the curb. This is the act of “denying self.” It hurts. It’s tempting to justify responsibilities or desires that God has not place on our plate, but that’s gratifying self. You cannot follow Jesus if you are more concerned with gratifying yourself than you are with denying yourself.
Second, you must pick up your cross on a daily basis. After identifying the responsibilities God has give you today, you must embrace them. Jesus did not desire the cross, and yet, “despising its shame,” he picked it up and walked with it. So, you and I must daily pick up the will of the Father and walk with it. Paul encourages us to reach ahead for it in Philippians 3:14, 15. “…Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Finally, once we have learned to deny ourselves and to pick up our cross on a daily basis, Jesus includes “Following Him” in his list of requirements to actually follow Him. This is because following Christ must be a purposeful task. You must evaluate your responsibilities and your desires on a daily basis. You must deny yourself and pick up your cross on a daily basis, and finally… lest we all forget, we must actually start walking. We must decide to follow Jesus every day of our life.