“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
At times, I am grieved because it seems that, for many believers, this verse means nothing. Many of us are walking along with Jesus but have no idea what we’ve signed up for. More importantly, we have no idea who it is we follow. We’re part of the church because we grew up in it. We’re involved because we’re pursuing our own ambitions in music, ministry, or whatever else interests us. We think being religious is the right thing to do. A thousand motives, a swarm of reasons, yet no inkling that we have been called to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily. We take the name of our Husband but have no intention of following the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4). We call Him Master but find His example beneath us (John 13:15-17).
Jesus has only one destination throughout the gospels: the cross. While He marches steadily closer to His end, the disciples get excited that the demons obey them, they try to one-up each other, they criticize those outside their group, they fight amongst themselves, they turn away people who need ministry, they pledge their unwavering devotion to Him. Jesus’s entire focus is on Calvary. The disciples are focused on everything but. To put it another way, they are focused on all that Jesus is bearing to the cross for judgment. Then, when the cross comes, the disciples scatter. The cross reveals that their devotion is to many things besides Him, and in the shadow of its judgment, there is nothing left that binds them to Him.
God help us repent of being engrossed in things that God has judged (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:15, 16). God help us repent of thinking God will be satisfied with anything less than our whole selves (Mark 10:17-22). God help us see that any gospel which says, “Never! The cross shall never happen to you!” does not have in mind the things of God but the things of men (Matt. 16:21-23). God help us put aside our thoughts and our ways as we see His face set like flint toward the giving up of Himself (Luke 9:51). “[L]et us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1, 2).