Taking Up Our Cross – Dying to Self and Putting Others First

 

                                                     By Tony K April 2017

Matthew 10:38-39   (KJV) 38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

 

Matthew 16:24 (KJV) 24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

 

In the gospels Jesus urged his followers to take up their crosses and follow him. It is interesting to note that Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 10:38-39, Matthew 16:24 and also Luke 9:23, Luke 14:27 and Luke 14:33 before his death. This signifies that he knew exactly by what death he himself would die. Jesus death on the cross and subsequent resurrection are the keystones of our Christian faith. Without this the Christian faith would have no meaning. He shows us that we must die to ourselves by placing our trust in the cross. Salvation through our faith in the resurrection gives us a blessed hope for eternity. As Christians, when we were saved, our old selves were nailed to the cross, our sins were forgiven and washed away, because of the death of Jesus. However, when our “old Nature” raises its ugly head at any time we must figuratively nail it to the cross afresh.

Jesus’ death on the cross was a painful one. His carrying of the cross was also painful. When he urges us to take up our crosses daily and follow him, we must not expect that it will be easy or painless for us. There is a cost involved in being a Christian. In order to be a disciple of Jesus we must lose our life for his sake. However, when we do, we will find the reward is to gain a new life, not of our own, but of Christ jiving in us. Jesus did not stay on the cross, but rose gloriously to life. We can share in that life of Christ, but only if we die to our own selfish life.

 

So what does it mean to die to ourselves and take up our cross? Colossians 3:1-5 tells us that it is the earthly nature in us that we must put to death, in order to live a life in the spirit.

Colossians 3:1-5 (NKJV) 3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

 

The earthly nature esteems immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness and idolatry. God’s spirit filled Christian should shun such things. Romans 8:7 tells us that the mind that is set on the things of the flesh is hostile to God, or at enmity with Him. Such a mind is not in submission to God. Rather, our minds should be set on things of the Spirit. Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think on the things which are noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. We are also told to do nothing from selfishness, but to put others first. We should not be boastful (1 John 2:15), for a boast always exalts ourselves, and very often it is at the expense of others. We need to realize that we are nothing outside of Christ Jesus. As we deny ourselves and take up our cross we will become more like Him, and will gain a life of far greater worth than the one which we lose.

 

Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
How easy it is to put ourselves before others. How often we look after no1 first and foremost! Of course we must look after ourselves, but if our primary focus is on ourselves then something is amiss. If at first thought we decide to look after our own needs before those of others, then we are in violation of the scriptural principle shown in the passage in Philippians chapter 2 mentioned above. If we complain or murmur against others, or constantly try to draw undue attention to ourselves, then those traits are also in opposition to this scripture. Do we quickly use the shortfalls of others’ to try to promote ourselves regardless of how the other person might be hurt in the process? Can we justify doing that in the light of the passage in Philippians? I don’t believe we can. If in any way shape or form we seek to manipulate or use others to gain advantage in a situation for ourselves, then we are on slippery ground. Using another person as a tool to further our own ends, regardless of whether or not they get hurt in the process, should never be a part of our Christian walk. I would also suggest that if we always have to be the one that is right, always have to have the last word, or if we cannot say we are sorry and admit it if we are wrong- then we are not esteeming others higher than ourselves.

 

1 Peter 4:1-3 tells us that we will be called upon to suffer just as Jesus suffered. If we suffer in the flesh we will cease from sin. 1 Peter 2:21 reminds us that we must follow in the footsteps of Jesus. What were those footsteps re did they lead? They were ultimately footsteps that led to Calvary with the carrying of a heavy cross!

Romans 6:6 (KJV) Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

We can see in this verse that if our old self has been crucified with Jesus, then sin is rendered powerless and we will not be enslaved by it. Therefore whenever our old nature raises its head, and the old familiar paths of sin and bad habits seek to drown us in their futility, let us endeavour to keep our eyes fixed on the cross of Christ. For in the cross lies the power to overcome all that is contrary to the Spirit of God.

Scripture References:

Romans 8:13 (NKJV)    For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
 

Romans 8:6-8 (NKJV)   For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Mark 8:34 (NKJV)    When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

Luke 9:23 (NKJV)  Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Luke 14:27 (NKJV)  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Luke 14:33 (NKJV) So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

1 Peter 4:1-3 (NKJV)    Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.

1 Peter 2:21(NKJV)  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: