If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Have I died today? This is the most basic question for the benefit of our spiritual life and growth. There is so much selfishness in us, so much competitiveness, so much “me” in me and “you” in you, that the only way to focus on Christ as we should is to put an end to self.
Various Christian groups have through the centuries sought to understand this concept – some have sought to even enforce it among their people, all without success. To enforce results in control measures, and lording it over others, and ultimately is a return to legalism, a judgmental spirit toward others, and division. This is a command that must be experienced on a personal devotional level – as the Spirit of God directs and enables us. The basic meaning according to scripture is to put an end to the idea of a self-focused life, to resign as our own boss, and to not expect that we can improve ourselves enough morally to make an impression on God. It is also a concept of faith, believing that God can resurrect us from the dead.
To take up a cross was to accept one’s crucifixion, the act of a condemned prisoner carrying the very thing he was to die upon out to the site of his execution – that we must be willing to do this daily means that every day our ego and our pride, our morally eroded selfish sense of personal justice, must be put aside. Conscientiousness is a necessary part of this, willing to forgo immediate “rewards” of selfish satisfactions for the ultimate reward of God’s approval. So selfish spontaneity and impatience are the enemies of dying to self, and spiritual spontaneity, where we listen to the voice of God and are immediately obedient to Him, takes root and grows.
We die today that Christ might live His life in and through us. This is to be the daily experience for every believer – Him in me, and Him living through me. We need an appetite developed in our souls for Him and not for selfish attitudes which will twist and distort every spiritual value. What hold you back from dying to self? What is holding you back today and preventing you from reckoning yourself dead to sin and self? Whatever it is – whether pride, anger, lust, a desire for revenge, unforgiveness, bitterness, or even shame or guilt – must be placed upon the cross as well.
If our desire is to look good, be well thought of, be respected, or gain power and control over others – then these become the very enemies of dying to self and living to Christ. Release these into His hands and you will find that He will fight for your dignity and your rights in ways you had never imagined.