As Christians, our
walk in the Faith is not always easy. In fact, it rarely is. But rather
than be discouraged by the hardships and difficulties we face, we
should embrace them humbly in complete obedience - and submission - to
God. The willingness to follow Jesus regardless of the outcome is not a
light-hearted commitment. Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would
come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow
me" (Matthew 16:24). But what does that actually mean?

Jesus doesn't take any shortcut in laying out the costs of being one of his disciples. Almost as quickly as he begins, he's already asking of us
something none of us wants to hear: denial. He says the one who comes
after Him must "deny himself". We are to die to earthly desires,
anything that sets itself up and prioritizes itself higher than that of
our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:8;
2 Corinthians 10:5). Jesus even goes as far as to tell us to "let the
dead bury their own dead" when it comes to our complete devotion and
submission to him and the spreading of the Gospel (Luke 9:60). It's not
a one-time deal. We are to constantly deny ourselves - die to the
flesh. The Apostle Paul said it plainly and powerfully when he told the
Corinthians, "I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31).

But then Jesus goes even further with the lesson of true devotion. Jesus instructs us
to take up our cross. What exactly does that mean? It means the
willingness to follow Christ no matter what the cost - or consequence.
For many Christians, such radical devotion to their Savior has even
cost them their lives. As disciples of Christ, we must be willing to
devote our entire lives - every corner and facet of it - to God, even
if it means death. Just as Jesus "humbled himself, and became obedient
unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8), we are to
do likewise. Are you prepared to do that for Jesus?

Before we can honestly answer that question, we must first examine our motives.
After all, why are we to give such radical commitment to Christ? It
shouldn't be because "we have to" or "we do in order to be good
Christians". We should devote our lives to our Savior because of love.
Love like the love he showed us. John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in
him should not perish, but have everlasting life." When you love
someone, you are willing to suffer - and die - for them. It isn't the
artificial affection we commonly exclaim about popcorn, the newest
reality tv-show, or even our pet. It's that selfless, pure, genuine,
humble, trustworthy, and all-encompassing kind of love - the kind of
love God showed all of us when he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to
die on the Cross for our sins. In order to truly comprehend what it
means to be a follower of Jesus, a denier of oneself, and a
cross-bearer, we must understand the sacrifice Christ made for us, and
how it relates to our commitment to Him. Without this love, our
devotion is nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). God wants our whole selves -
body, mind, and soul (see Matthew 22:37). He wants our hearts.

It's this sort of commitment - this sort of love - that Jesus was talking
about when he told his disciples to deny themselves and take up their
cross. But he also adds one final instruction. "Follow me." We are to
follow him to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the gospel and
baptizing the nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
(Matthew 28:19-20). After Christ had rose from the dead, he appeared to
the Apostles on a number of occasions before ascending to Heaven. On
one such occasion, Jesus told the Apostle Peter, "Truly, truly, I
say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk
wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your
hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want
to go" (John 21:18). In the next verse, we read that Christ said this
to demonstrate what sort of death Peter would glorify God. It's that
sort of commitment that Christ demands, calling us to go to places we
too may not want to go.

In the book of Acts, we read of the LORD telling the Apostle Paul, "Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast
testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome"
(Acts 23:11). The willingness to follow Christ no matter the cost,
consequence, or outcome - through love - is vital in our walk in the
Faith. Are we as willing to follow God's will as Paul?

Our commitment to Christ Jesus can often be difficult, but we earnestly "
press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus" (Philippians 3:14) with the same love that He so selflessly and
humbly showed us so that we too can say like Paul: "I have fought the
good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy

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Comment by Charles Martin Jr on July 8, 2010 at 6:55am
Very, very moving. Thank you.

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