Summary: Self denial, self sacrifice, following wherever Jesus leads. The danger of ruining our eternal souls. Christ alone can save us.
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS
Peter was in no doubt that Jesus is the anointed one of God. What he did not understand was that his Master is not like any earthly Lord. He is not the type of King who was expected by the crowds. Jesus did not come into the world to deliver Judah from the oppression of the Romans, but to die for the sins of His people.
This teaching of the sacrifice of the Son of God is a stumbling block to people who imagine that they are able to make their own peace with God. Even the disciples took a long time to understand it. Yet without the crucifixion of Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins. Without His passing through death, there is no peace with God.
Jesus came from the highest heavens, and was brought low, as low as any man can go. In obedience to His heavenly Father, Jesus was willing to die for the sins of His people. He was even willing to die the cursed death of the Cross on our behalf (Philippians 2:5-8).
Yet Jesus was lifted up and exalted. He arose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He is praying for you, even now, at the right hand of God. One day He will return to earth to receive the confession of all men that He is the Lord, the anointed one of God (Philippians 2:9-11).
There are ways in which we can never match what Christ has done, but we are still encouraged to follow Him in the path of His humility.
1. If you wish to follow Jesus, you must learn self-denial. You must “deny yourself” (Luke 9:23).
The Christian life involves choosing the way of God rather than our own path. You must follow the example of Jesus, who surrendered Himself to the will of His Father. Jesus prayed: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
He teaches us to pray likewise: “Your will be done” (Luke 11:2).
You should give up your selfish ambitions, and submit to His purposes in your life.
2. The follower of Jesus is called to a life of self-sacrifice. You must “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23).
The Apostle Paul understood this when he said:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
In baptism we receive our initiation into the Christian community in terms of death and resurrection: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
You should die to self, and live for God. The Apostle Paul teaches: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).
For some disciples, this also involved following Jesus to physical death. Such should be the level of commitment for those who are serious about being Christians.
3. If you would follow Jesus, you must be willing to walk with Him, and to go wherever He leads (Luke 9:23). The Christian walk is not easy. It may make you unpopular. It may bring ostracism.
Jesus warns us, “You will be hated of all for my name’s sake.. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10:22-24).
Jesus has walked the road of rejection before us. He will also be with you when you follow in that lonely path. He will comfort and encourage you.
You must “crucify” the flesh daily. You must resist the devil. You must overcome the world. There is a crown of glory laid up for you which makes it all worthwhile.
4. There are many ways in which you can ruin your eternal soul.
If you love sin, and refuse to come to faith in Christ, you are condemned already (John 3:18). You are killing your own soul, and you only have yourself to blame.
If you follow man-made religions, then you will never reach up to God. You are slowly poisoning your soul. Only the Lord Jesus Christ provides the remedy to man’s ills, and meets us each one at our point of need.
If you are not attentive to Bible reading and prayer, then you are starving your soul of that which sustains it in this life, and which prepares it for the next.
5. Christ alone can save your soul, and if you refuse the offer of the gospel it is at your own peril. What is worldly gain compared to the ruin of your soul?