Death to Self

Luke 9:23 (ESV)
"And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."

This verse is perhaps one of the most direct and challenging sayings of Jesus in all of Scripture. It cuts right to the heart of the matter and forces the would-be Christian, myself included, to examine their own walk and ask: Does my life truly reflect someone who follows Jesus?

When Jesus made the statement in this verse, He is commanding that all of our selves be given to him, not just partial, or what we choose to give over. It means that we need to let go of our selfish desires and our attitude of self-sufficiency. For some, that is simply too much to give up. What about you? Are there areas of your life that are off-limits to Christ?

Consider these areas and reflect if Christ has ownership of these in your life:
  • Work: Are you faithful in attendance on Sunday but unwilling to allow Christ into your worklife? Are there times where business ethics collide with His ethical teachings? Or do you keep hidden your Christian values out of fear of mockery or isolation? 
  • Bedroom: Does His teachings on sexual purity reflect your lifestyle? Is His teaching on adultery from Matthew 5:28 too difficult to bear? 
  • Politics: Do your actions reflect a life driven by a desire to change hearts by the Word of God or by one driven by a manmade desire to stoke political reform through sowing seeds of discontent and divisiveness through back-and-forth bickering? We should honor, respect, and pray for our leaders (Romans 13:1-8), but our hope should reside only in God. Does your hope, your focus, for your salvation lie in Christ or in Washington, DC? 
  • Money: Do your financial decisions reflect the values of Scripture? I’m not talking about tithing, but does your spending reflect a life free from the many idols offered in this world and the many temptations of the flesh? Do you use any portion of what God has given you to help others? 
  • Time: Does the world take precedence over the Word? What we do and say should be the evidence of a life transformed. This is exactly what James was referring to in his 2nd chapter (James 2:17). 

We are inherently comfort seekers and spend our lives in pursuit of more and more comfort. When we see the words “take up our cross daily and follow Him”, we think of something that we should sacrifice in order to serve. We want His comfort, but not His suffering. But for the first-century Jew, taking up the cross meant only one thing: it meant to die.

What Christ is demanding is our death—to self. Not partially, or half-committed, but total and complete surrender.

The Greek word kyrios (or kurios) occurs over 700 times in the New Testament and mostly refers to Jesus. It means lord or master. If you truly believe you are a follower of Jesus then He must be your Lord, Savior, and Master. And if He is your master, then you must relegate your role to being His slave. Are you ready for that or does your life reflect a partial commitment to such a role?

I can find nowhere in Scripture where Christ preached moderation—in fact if you take a look at the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus was repugnant towards the people of this church. Why? Because they were neither hot or cold, but lukewarm, and thus Jesus spit them out. They were a dead church, full of self-righteous and hypocritical people, pretending to be followers.

This is a challenging verse for all of us and the takeaway from this is that we should constantly be evaluating ourselves and where we are in our walk with Him. Does our journey of sanctification truly reflect a life of a follower of Christ?