Following Jesus requires sacrifice. We must beware of any teaching that disregards this reality. Therefore, we must consider the question, “What has it cost me to follow Jesus?” And what are some things in life that could hold us back from truly being a follower of Jesus?
There’s a scene in Mark’s gospel that is the major turning point in the book and the decisive moment for the original disciples. Jesus is about to begin his journey to Jerusalem where he knows he will likely meet his death. His disciples cannot foresee or even comprehend what awaits him in Jerusalem, but in one more attempt to prepare them, Jesus declares what their allegiance to him demands of them.
Mark records Jesus’ words when he writes:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.”
The command is clear. If we want to follow Jesus then we have to devote ourselves to the denial of self. This means a complete willingness to turn away from the way we are currently thinking and living. We are no longer to live in order to satisfy ourselves; we are to live in order to serve Christ.
If Jesus is Lord, then he is the one who sets the agenda. There is no negotiating with him. The second someone attempts to negotiate the authority of a king then that person is no longer respecting or recognizing his authority as king.
Taking up our cross means for us to die to our self-seeking pursuits, to die to our desire for control, to die to our efforts to use God for our own agendas. And so, based on what our King commands and what our allegiance to him demands, may we lay down our swords of self-rule at the feet of the King and humbly declare, “Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.”