"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24
Don't you love that part in a dramatic movie when one person says to another in frustration, "What do you want from me?" We've all said that to someone in our life. Maybe a parent, a spouse, an employer. Maybe........God? Come on. Sure you have. Be honest. We've all asked the Lord at one point or another just exactly what is it that He wants from us anyway.
I love direct answers, don't you? Don't beat around the bush with me. Give it to me straight. Well Jesus didn't mince words. We don't have to wonder what he was getting at. He said what he meant and meant what he said.
There are 3 directives here for the potential recruit: 1) Deny yourself 2) Take up your cross and 3) Follow me. Pretty simple, right? Well, yes and no.
Let's look at number 1 - Deny yourself. Ouch! That one doesn't leave much wiggle room. Deny yourself means you can't be the center of your world. It won't work that way. Jesus has to come first in everything. Others have to slide in next and you actually belong in the caboose. Yep. You're dead last.
Number 2 is the part about taking up your cross. Ever hear someone say in relating a painful or difficult situation in their life, "Well I guess that's just my cross to bear?" Sounds so humble doesn't it? Maybe, but I don't think that's what the Lord meant here. You see, the cross was actually an instrument of death. Number 2 actually is building on number 1. We deny ourselves, and then we die to ourselves. We die to our old way of thinking, living, relating. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:31 "...I die daily..."
Finally, number 3 says that we are to follow him. That one's not too tough either. Where he goes--you go. What he loves--you love. What he hates--you hate.