“And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me.” -Matthew 10:38
What does the message of the cross mean for believers? First, it means that we must die to our flesh and become alive to His purpose (the spirit). Secondly, we must suffer in taking the message of the gospel to the lost.
The crowds flocked to Jesus not to see him but to see His spirit. Jesus was a servant and we must be servants, surrendering our flesh to God daily as Jesus did.
So, why are we tempted?
“Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death. Do not be misled, my beloved brethren.” -James 1:13-16
This verse tells us that evil desire leads to sin and sin leads to death. It also tells us that a person who has died to their flesh does not need to be tempted. Jesus says in John 14:30 (see below) that the devil has no claim on Him and has no power over Him.
“I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me. [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.]” -John 14:30
The biggest enemy of self denial is pride but Jesus says that if you follow Him, you don’t have to worry excessively about your image or what other people think. You’re already accepted as God’s child and if people find fruit in your life, they find the Father.
“Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life]. He who receives and welcomes and accepts you receives and welcomes and accepts Me, and he who receives and welcomes and accepts Me receives and welcomes and accepts Him Who sent Me.” -Matthew 10:39-40
We, as believers, need to be stripped of the world and equipped with the gospel. When we empty ourselves of the world we are able to carry God’s love and His will. We have to die to our own vision in order to become God’s image bearers and fruit bearers.
God showed His love to humanity by giving his own Son, Jesus, to redeem us and that is the primary message of the cross. However, to become disciples and become obedient to God’s will we must learn to carry our own personal cross, to deny our fleshy desires, and to die to self.