Disciples of Jesus know they must take up their cross daily. But do you understand what that means? No one survives the cross. Not even the physical body of Jesus. The cross is an unequivocal representation of death. To pick up our cross daily necessitates that we die each day. Every day we must completely surrender what we want to do. All our hopes, dreams and ambitions are dead to us. Every relationship is dead. The cross spares nothing.
As you die to self, the cross strips everything away. We can hold on to nothing. It all goes. Every day. I’d wager few of us live like this. How many of us even pick up our cross? At best, we give it a casual glance before continuing with our plans. Very few of us are dying to live each day. If this is as true for you as it is for me, we are a long way from being able to call ourselves disciples of Jesus.
It’s painful to recognize how far we have yet to go. Having followed Christ for decades, I know I should be further along. I’ve made small cuts and easy changes. But I cannot say I’ve died to everything day after day after day. Jesus didn’t tell us to pick up our cross a couple of times each year, or every month, and definitely not whenever it was convenient. The cross is never convenient. It tears away everything we hold dear. No, Jesus told us to pick up our cross daily (Luke 9:23-24).
Every day we must die all over again. We must choose to follow Jesus and abandon everything else. Unless we are dying to live, we will never live the life God has planned for us. We will never truly live. To carry the cross is agony. It is beyond uncomfortable. Each moment of the day, we are aware of what we are carrying. On our shoulders is the death of everything we’ve known on earth. When you look at Jesus’s disciples in the Bible, you say they held nothing back. They didn’t keep a foot in their past and a foot in the camp of Jesus. Their surrender was immediate and complete. This is how it must be for us as well if we want to be His disciples.
Are you dying to live, or living for people and things other than Jesus? We’re either dying to live or living to die. Life will end for all of us. What matters is what we do until then. We can die to ourselves now and live for eternity, or we can live like everyone else and suffer an eternity apart from Jesus. If you aren’t willing to let go of your dreams, put Jesus before even your most loving relationships, and surrender every moment to Him, you aren’t ready to take up your cross. It must be more than something we say. Picking up our cross demands we die not just today, but every day. When we finally pick up our cross, we will find Jesus walking right beside us, shouldering the load and leading us to the life we were meant to live. The sacrifice is temporary, but the reward is eternal.