Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24).
A quick note on the “deny yourself” part of Matthew 16:24.
It’s HARD. “Myself” is a whole set of belief systems, of habits, of pride, of ego accumulated through my entire living history.
And to deny myself is to kill it, to have it nailed on the cross with Christ, so as to take up life with Him. In fact that’s exactly what follows this step – take up my cross and follow Christ. If it feels like torture, that’s because it is – the cross is indeed a device of torment to our old selves. And yet this must be so that His Kingdom, His reign, is truly established within us; that we may gain life eternal, that true shalom takes place.
And since no one is perfectly Christian until Consummation takes place, we are to continually, progressively die to our old selves, to be likewise renewed, sculpted into Christ’s image. As we progressively die to self, we progressively live in Christ.
But lest we harbor hatred to the cross instead of self, let us pause a moment and consider what Jesus has done. Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity has always been in perfect accord with God; always been, always will. And yet He willingly chose the way of the cross, for our sake. He could have chosen a shortcut of sorts. But He didn’t. Now if the King of kings, Creator of all there is, emptied Himself and suffered willingly out of His undeserved love for us, how much more shall we the redeemed sheep gladly suffer for His sake! For the more we suffer, the more we realize His infinitely greater suffering, the more we realize His love for us and all the more boldly shall we walk for His sake. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39.