“And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27).
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
Our self-love versus our sinful nature
The Bible plainly teaches that we have an inherently sinful nature (Proverbs 20:9; Romans 3:23; 5:12–13; 1 John 1:8). The apostle Paul seemed to have pretty low self-esteem when he cried, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24).
The Bible makes it clear that it is not a lack of love for oneself that causes problems in society; it is the obsession with self. In fact, this love of self will be one of the earmarks of the last days, leading to a host of other problems (see 2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Scripture acknowledges the fact that we already love ourselves. Ephesians 5:29 says, “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it” No, Jesus did not say that we need to love ourselves (we already do that). He told us to deny ourselves. To better understand the significance of this, we must first understand what that means.
The word denial means to repudiate; to disdain; to disown; to forfeit; to totally disregard.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or you see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”
What is the positive outcome of denying yourself? Jesus goes on to say,
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). The word for “life” in the original Greek was psuche, meaning “soul life”—literally your will, ambition, goals and desires. When you give that up to allow yourself to be conformed into the image of Jesus, you will discover His plan and purpose for you.
Bearing your cross means dying to oneself.
Why did Jesus use this particular illustration? He used a radical symbol to get people’s attention. He was not simply speaking of an individual’s personal problem or obstacle. In that day and age, a person who was bearing a cross was walking to his death. Bearing your cross means dying to self—laying aside your personal goals, desires and ambitions so that God can reveal His desires, ambitions and goals for your life. In essence, it is living life as it was meant to be lived: in the will of God.
Samuel Rutherford said, “The cross of Christ is the sweetest burden that I ever bore. It is a burden to me such as wings are to a bird or sails are to a ship to carry me forward to my harbor.”
“In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross, he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of Man’s soul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of a Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility” (A.W. Tozer).