The one thing that will bring believers in Christ face-to-face with a way of life that continues in sin is the cross of Christ. Yet many have come to the point where they have made peace with the sin in their life, so His cross now offends them. These people want Jesus in their lives, but they also want to hold onto pet sins. They convince themselves that this is acceptable by telling themselves that “Jesus already paid the price for my sin, so I’m at peace about this and free to enjoy myself (even though I continue to follow my own unyielding heart!).”
But Jesus said, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 emphasis added). To take up the cross does not simply mean denying ourself to the point of being a martyr. It is something we are to display in our ordinary and everyday life. We have to give the full reign of our life to Jesus. And the only way to do so is to deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow after Him. “Whoever does not take up his cross…” is not ready to follow the example of Jesus, which is to be willing to suffer death to defend what we believe about Christ. This refers to the custom of making the criminal bear his own cross to his place of execution. And we are to take up our cross daily! Since our forefather Adam fell into sin, we find ourselves incapable of following God properly on our own. Consequently, God sent a Man we would be able to follow, and sincere people do follow Him—because Jesus is real! But if we are not willing to deny ourself, and come to Him by the means of His cross, then we cannot truly be His follower.
Paul the Apostle said, “I die daily,” because he realized that it was necessary to deny that he could go on in sin and still have Christ’s approval. God did not give him a special allowance to hold onto favorite sins just because he did good works for Him. Paul understood that it was essential for him to agree with God’s Word and deny himself any privilege to continue to sin at all.
Some think living a simple life will qualify as denying ourself before God. Do we think that giving up our best clothes and wearing the cheapest ones would count? Or maybe giving up our car and getting a moped? If we could reach the point of having no desire for the nicer benefits of life, would that make us qualify? Do we think this would give us true power with God because we denied ourself so much? The Lord says that this is not where our victory lies, because the victory is not ours in the first place—it’s His.
Repentance concerns facing the challenge our sin presents to us. But first we have to admit that we sin! We have to fight and conquer our desire to deny that this is true before we arrive at the cross when God’s Holy Spirit deals with us. Denying self also means accepting the challenge to proclaim sincerely, “I’m through with sin in my life right now and forever!”
Repenting also involves facing the possible outcome if we still continue to sin. The hard truth is that we have to put an end to the sin we are involved in now. This will be our decisive moment of truth, where we finally admit that we cannot go on in our sin and still have God’s Holy Spirit living in us. We will ultimately realize that we will lose everything unless we face sin once and for all. It will kill us unless we do something to end it. And it will kill our marriage and family if we continue in sin. We must confess that we realize we are wrong, and refuse to accept or dream up more excuses for sin. But repenting is more than admitting we have been wrong; we must also admit that Jesus is right! Then He’ll have mercy on us, but only if we have really repented from our heart. He will always honor and never turn away from a heart that truly repents.
What will His cross do for us? It will tear right into our life where it hurts the most, having no mercy on our reputation. Our old self will be defeated, and our old self-centered life will die. Only after all this will we be able to come up into a full life, establishing a pattern for a totally new and free life of good works pleasing to God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17,18).
It’s time to admit to God that we do not have the power to overcome sin ourselves, or to deliver ourselves. Neither can we crucify ourselves. We need to give up all attempts to die to sin on our own. We already died to our old self when we were first born again, so the devil has no legal right to hold us in bondage now.
The one main goal Jesus had from birth to His death on the cross was to give up His human life for others. The life He lived was totally unselfish. The cross ended His human life, and it can do the same for our old life of being focused on ourselves. Now, if we will just deny ourself, He will not deny us a place in His coming Kingdom! Make that 180-degree turn today, and be done with sin forever!
[Image credits: Featured image (when available) Felix Mittermeier/pexels; (opening composite image) OpenClipart-Vectors/pixabay & Greg Rosenke/unsplash; Free-Photos/pixabay; Waldryano/pixabay; Kalhh/pixabay]