Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25
No, He was advocating for us to go find a wooden cross and carry it around as Christians. This isn’t what He meant – although it’s not necessarily wrong to refer to some problem we are having as a “cross” we must bear. In Jesus’ day, a cross was a symbol of suffering and death, and we all have trials and afflictions that may be very hard for us to bear – even with God’s help.
But Jesus meant something far deeper than this when He told His disciples to carry their cross. He said to them, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In Jesus’ day, a cross wasn’t just a symbol of pain and suffering; it was an instrument of imminent death. What Jesus was telling the disciples is they needed to put their own plans and desires to death, and come to follow Him and live their lives endeavoring to do His will every day.
You see, Jesus doesn’t simply call us to believe that He existed, or even to believe that He can save us. He calls on us to commit our whole lives to Him – to trust Him alone for our salvation, our families and our possessions by faith alone, and then to follow Him learning to become His disciples. He said, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). A disciple is one who has chosen to submit himself to the instructions and teaching of an exceptional, exclusive leader’s lifestyle. It will likely be more than one individual who will have influence in our life. And some will be much younger than we are. However, Jesus example and His word must be the top priority teacher.
Is Christ the master of my life? Have I put to death my own plans and committed myself to His will for my life? I can now look back and see many failures. I, just as many of others, have many regrets. Please do not be satisfied with anything less than desiring and committing yourself to be an outstanding disciple of Jesus, for there is no greater joy in life than following Christ every day. Allow His character, attributes and instructions become more and more a part of your life as you age and mature. You will not regret it when you have gray hair and feeble knees.
As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn whatthis means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Matthew 9:9-13
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. John 1:16-18
Matthew, Luke and John, all comment on the need to follow the man called Jesus and to see to receive and understand His grace and truth. We have not seen Him as they did in real life so we much place heavy reliance on their writings about the only begotten Son of God, also son of man. Blessed are those who have not seen and believe.
We are human and we fail. I will be the first to admit I have failed in many areas due to lack of complete surrender to Christ. Yet God created us and gave us freedom and the mental ability to make choices in life: natural, practical, wise and eternal. He created us so we become what we focus on. He never forces Himself on anyone. We all must choose what level we will serve Him as a servant. It is never too late to adjust the lens of our view of Christ in life and what He has done to give us freedom in life. Only choices made in obedience to the will and purpose of God for our life will give us freedom.
All we really need in life is simply Jesus and surrender to become more like Him each day. Jesus is full of mercy; let us be also filled with mercy toward all men and not place demands on them. They must make the choice; all we can do is be an example of mercy and grace to love them into the kingdom of God.