Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me,” Matthew 16:24. What does this really mean? The answer is found in the next verse, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it,” vs. 25. If we lose our life for the sake of the Lord, we will actually find it. What an anomaly, we must lose our life to find it. So how do we lose it? We lose it by denying our self, and taking up our cross, and following Jesus. In other words, we turn away from and leave behind our old ways of sin and selfishness, and all other devices of the flesh. That is denying self.
Now we must take up our cross. To do this we must understand that our cross is Jesus’ cross; His cross is our cross. We were crucified with Him on His cross. So to take up our cross means to accept and embrace the truth that we were in Jesus when He died; we died with Him. His cross is the cross on which our old self died. After dying with Jesus, we were baptized into His death, and raised up with Him into newness of life.
And even though we were crucified with Christ and raised up into newness of life with Him, we were left in our bodies of flesh, and therefore we are still subject to both temptation and sin; for sin still dwells in us, Romans 7:17, 20; and it will cause us to do things we don’t want to do. We want to do good, but we cannot do it because of the sin within us. We are incapable of overcoming it. So, here we are, stuck in this dilemma, with our minds we are serving the law of God, and with the flesh we are serving the law of sin. We must realize that no one can keep the Law. It only makes us aware of our sins, it cannot deliver us from them, so to try to keep it is just a vain attempt, accomplishing nothing. So what do we do? Is there any deliverance from this conundrum?
Yes, absolutely, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit,” Romans 8:3,4. And now those of us who walk by the Spirit consider ourselves to be dead to sin, having been crucified with Jesus, and alive to God through His raising us up with Him, that we might become partakers of His Spirit and nature, having been born again, a new creature, a new being, the body of Christ. And, though sin still dwells in us, there is no condemnation, for the law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and of death, and we are no longer slaves to sin, but are now slaves to righteousness as we walk by the Spirit, abiding in Jesus, and believing in His sacrifice.
Having denied our self and taken up our cross, we must follow Jesus. In other words, we must follow the examples He left for us as we walk through life in our body of flesh. “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” 1 Peter 2:21. While He was on this earth, Jesus was tempted in that which He suffered, Hebrews 2:18a; and He learned obedience from the things which He suffered, Hebrews 5:8. So it is with us——we suffer through temptation, and we learn obedience through that suffering. “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons,” Hebrews 12:7,8.
During these trials, our faith is being tested, that the proof of it, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:7. And should we encounter problems with the accuser of the brethren, we have an Advocate with the Father who is able to come to our aid when we are tempted, Hebrews 3:18. Once our faith has been tested and proven, we will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him, James 1:12.
Some may ask, “But what if we should fall short and sin?” If that happens, we must believe what John said, “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” 1 John 2: 1, and, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9. “For since He was tempted in that which He suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted,” Hebrews 2:18.
Dear friends, we are children of God. Do you not think He will make a way for us as we travel to our destination? How are we to overcome sin, by dying to self? No, by trusting in Jesus who carried us in His body on the tree that His death might be our death, so that we could enter the newness of life in the kingdom of His Father. And so it happened, that when God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised us up also the moment we believed in the sacrifice of Jesus. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 16:25-27.
Peter said, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them we might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust,” 2 Peter 1:2-4.
Peter makes it plain in these verses that everything we need to live the Christian life can be found in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. Paul told the Ephesians that Jesus gave the church different ministries until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God. He also told the Colossians that he strives according to God’s power that works within him, that they may attain to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The Father has placed the fulness of the Deity in Jesus, and has given Him all authority in heaven and on earth, and has placed us in Him by removing our body of flesh, having buried us with Him in baptism, and raised us up with Him from the dead through our faith in the working of God. And because of all this we have been made complete, for as Paul said, “Jesus has become to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,” (see Colossians 2:9-12 and 1 Corinthians 1:30).
“If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth,” Colossians 3:1,2.
Dear friends, we have most certainly come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel,” Hebrews 12:22-24. We ‘are’ a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession; and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
If we are in Christ we are a new creation, and through the knowledge of Christ, the Father has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, and by these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them we might become partakers of the divine nature. May God give us a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Jesus; and may the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, so that we may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the greatness of His power toward us who believe.
Jon David Banks, God’s most unworthy servant
P.S. Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.” Don’t search for this and that; search for the living Christ, and let Him reveal Himself to you.