Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. . . In fact, every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts.” We find these challenging words from Jesus in Luke 9:23–25:“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
There is a great cost to following Jesus.We see this cost in verse 23 where Jesus gives three commands. First, we must deny ourselves. This means that we see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt and sinful to the core. It means that we give up relying on ourselves, our works, our religion, our power. Instead, we depend on Christ alone for salvation.
We must give up all reliance on what we are by nature—self-absorbed, independent, prideful, lustful, selfish, and self-reliant, and depend solely upon Christ for salvation.We categorically turn away from sinful thoughts and habits and patterns and trying to be religious or a “good person” and we trust in Christ alone.To come to Christ means we leave everything behind and come to Him as desperate sinners. We come with nothing. Not even our best deeds will merit or earn our acceptance.
Second, we take up our cross daily. In our culture, we often hear the term, “I’ve got this cross to bear” as if it’s an inconvenience or a minor distraction. The cross in that culture was the definitive symbol of repugnance—it was an instrument of cruelty, pain, dehumanization, and shame. In the Jewish mind, only those cursed by God would be on the cross. It would be like wearing a necklace of an electric chair.
To take up our cross means that Jesus has our total allegiance and that we relinquish all our self-sufficiency and totally rely upon Him. We admit our weakness. We cling to the cross. We admit that we are bankrupt, and we are helpless and hopeless without Him.
We must voluntarily accept the pain, shame, and persecution that will accompany us when we live for Jesus and identify with His cross. 2 Timothy 3:12 reads, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 1 Peter 4:16: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” To take up your cross means a willingness to undergo persecution and suffering for being a Christian. We don’t take up our cross IN ORDER to be saved, but because we have been saved.
Third, we follow Jesus. This means to trust Jesus as the Messiah. To rest in Him as the Prophet, Priest, and King. To rely on Him alone to forgive your sins. John 1:12–13 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
If we take these three commands together as one, Jesus tells us to repent of our self-centeredness and self-sufficiency and to turn and trust in Jesus alone as Savior. We must be willing to accept the suffering and shame that comes with being a Christian.
In other words, there is a tremendous cost to becoming a Christian. It requires self-renunciation. It requires repentance. It requires owning up to your pride and selfishness and seeing yourself as spiritually bankrupt and deserving of hell. You see yourself as helpless, hopeless, and hell-bound and that you must place your trust in Jesus alone to save you from your sins and to grant you eternal life.
When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die. Have you died to your self? Do you hate your sin? Have you seen all the world has to offer as nothing compared to Jesus? Have you stopped trusting in your righteousness?
Would you trust in Jesus alone as your Savior? Would you be amazed at His love for you on the cross! Would you deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Jesus!