"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23 NIV
Crucifixion was a terrible and most inhumane tool of torture and death. It was the death penalty of Jesus' day, and there was no one in the Roman empire, young and old alike, who would not have a seen a convicted man carrying his cross through one of the empire's streets on his way to death.
Jesus was providing for his hearers a clear and unmistakable picture of what it meant to be His disciple. He was communicating that the first step to following Him is to pick up your cross (die to yourself - your way of living). Then, only after they deciding to give up on and lay down their way of living, could they pick up their cross (Jesus' way of living) and follow Him.
We always think that following Jesus means trying harder while we keep our way of life intact. Here's what I mean. We say, "Well, I will keep doing what I'm doing, and I'll start going to church, or maybe reading my Bible. I will keep partying and living for my sports or hobbies and just add Jesus to my life."
The problem with this kind of thinking is that when you are asked to carry a cross, there is no other way you can carry anything else. You only can carry the cross alone. You can't carry your cross and ________ (fill in the blank).
To follow Jesus, we must lay down everything else in our lives and take up our cross alone. It's not that He will necessarily take those things away, but they will fall into their proper places in our lives and hearts. They will become platforms and opportunities we use to worship Jesus instead of worshiping them on their own.
What is keeping you from taking up your cross and following Jesus? Lay it down today so you can take up the cross of death and experience the Life of Christ!
Lord Jesus, point out the things that I'm holding onto that are keeping me from following You. Give me the ability to forsake those things and lay them down, so I can take up my cross and follow You. Amen