In Mark 9:34-38, Jesus sets forth the criteria for those who are His –
1. He must deny himself
2. He must take up his cross
3. He must follow Me.
On a daily basis, those who belong to Christ must deny themselves. Getting comfortable is the worst thing that can happen to us, yet in the natural realm, ie. the flesh, that is what we desire most and seek to accomplish, to the detriment of our spiritual condition. The opposite of self-denial is self-gratification. The flesh thrives on this and it can never get enough. Once we have our fill, we are soon led away by our own lusts and desires for more. Denying self is what Jesus did as He focused on the Father’s will. As Christians, we can lose everything without even realizing it by following our own path.
Taking up our cross is submitting to the will of God, despite the feeling of wanting to take control of the situation. Jesus carried His cross after fully admitting that it was not His will, but the Father’s. Out of His great love and obedience, He carried His cross all the way. My cross is the will of God for my life, which means losing my life for His sake – my plans, my goals, my dreams must be crucified with the flesh for His glory. They will not just fade into the background – they must be crucified.
Following Jesus Christ is not for the cowardly. It’s pretty much a guarantee that at some point in your walk with Christ, you will want to say, “That’s enough – I quit!” only to realize seconds later that without Him, there is no life. Follow Him or do not follow Him. He is no dictator, but His path inevitably leads you through desolate places. But it is only when you deny yourself and take up your cross that you can follow Him to a path worth travelling.