Intro: Self-denial—a willingness to obey Christ’s commands, serve one another, and suffer—has always been a part of Christ’s teaching, but most of us will agree it comes with a struggle. Our flesh leans toward self-indulgence instead of self-denial; our desire for personal pleasure is innate. In fact, everything in our culture points to the pursuit of pleasure and the more we indulge in it the more we want; self-indulgence knows no end because it is never satisfied.
In our passage today, Jesus is talking to the disciples about the fact that he must suffer, be rejected, and die. No one understands why the Messiah needs to die in order to fulfill God’s plan for salvation. Then, if that wasn’t enough of a stumbling block, Jesus addresses the crowd and invites them to follow him into self-denial; to lose their lives, too. I’m sure those listening were thinking, “Jesus, we asked God for a Messiah to save us from suffering, not lead us into it!”
To deny self is to pick up the cross. We cannot save ourselves, so without Christ we are destined to die. However, when we trust Christ for salvation and obey his commands, we actually find resurrection life. We can know Christ’s sacrificial love and experience his power and glory when we follow him.
To pick up your cross is to identify with Christ’s message of salvation. We must deny our selfish desires in this life, because Jesus offers something of much greater value. Comfort is important to us, so to follow Jesus is to accept that he may lead us to do something very uncomfortable. So, put on the joy of your salvation today, pick up your cross, follow Christ, and save your life!
Luke 9:21-27 Jesus Predicts His Death
21 Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. 22 “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”
23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”
Prayer: Lord, I want what you have offered to your followers. Help me to obediently pick up my cross, today, and serve others. I know this is the way to eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.