Luke 9:23-24 And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.
What does it mean to take up your cross? Perhaps the best place to begin is with what it is not. Some people would say that suffering is the cross, it could be aches and pains, it could be something that is unfair or unjust, whatever it is, it is something that many wear as a badge of honor, they take great pride in it, and they are always willing to tell you about their troubles unfortunately, this is not the cross that our text is speaking about for the key to the texts cross, is that it is something you take up after denying yourself, while these kind of crosses are all about self.
For some people the cross is something meritorious they are doing to redeem themselves, it may be fighting cancer or corruption, it may be fighting for the poor or the oppressed whatever it is, it is something people are doing to make a difference. And as worthy as the many causes are, there are 2 problems, first is that they are begun as something done in order to save yourself, and the second is that they are not done to deny yourself, but they are done to show that you have lead a good life, that you have earned or contributed to your salvation.
You see, there is one thing you can say about the cross it is not about our works, and it is not about our merit, it is not about our sacrifice, it is not about our suffering the cross is about our salvation and our salvation is not earned or deserved but it is a free gift of God in Jesus Christ.
The cross is about following our Savior. And perhaps the biggest part of the cross, is that it calls for us to admit that we need a savior. If you are not a lost and condemned sinner, there is no reason to follow Jesus because there is every reason to believe that you can save yourself.
The problem is that our text tells us, that if you are trying to save your life you will loose it but if you loose your life for Jesus sake, you will be saved.
So what is the way of salvation, what is taking up the cross?
It begins with the confession that I am a poor miserable sinner, that there is nothing I can do to save myself, that by myself I am incapable of doing anything good, and there is nothing of merit or worthiness in me. This is usually where we get stuck, for we keep clinging to something, some little bit which we imagine should make a difference, something with some shred of merit or worthiness. Let me put it another way, we keep clinging to sin, usually one of the forms of self idolatry that is, God is not the center and the most important thing in all our life.
The point of the text is to show us this sin, and to tell us quite plainly that this sin damns. It is at that point that we confess we cannot save ourselves that we need a savior, that we will gladly and willingly follow our good shepherd. We follow our savior and good shepherd, because we believe that he has salvation, and that he will bring us to everlasting life.
You see, the cross that maters, the cross that can make a difference, is not any cross we might claim as our own rather it is the cross of Christ his suffering, his death, for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world Jesus is the sacrifice, Jesus pays the price Jesus will suffer and die, and rise on the 3rd day that is our only salvation. Our salvation is in Jesus blood, and Jesus merit.
Our text tells us plainly that there is salvation, it warns us of a false way in which there is no salvation this is the way when we trust in ourselves. But it also shows us the right way, the salvation that is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and that is the focus of taking up our cross daily for daily we confess our sins, and daily we find forgiveness, life and salvation in our savior and this is what the Christian life is all about.