Matthew 16:24-25 Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (KJV).
The walk of faith leads through the strait gate while journeying on the narrow road leads to eternal life. The principle that Jesus lays out before us in our opening passage is vital to living by faith. Without embracing it, faith will elude us. Each component is necessary for enduring to the end. If a person will not deny himself, he will not take up his cross, and if he will not take up his cross, it will be impossible to follow Jesus. Take to heart what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. Until you do, will not enter in at the strait gate or walk the narrow road.
The word “deny” means to disavow, disown, refuse, or renounce. It has a number of applications found throughout Scripture, however, in relation to the self it means that we refuse the self-nature. It is an act of humility, which leads to the total destruction of the old man. It is the utter rejection of self-exaltation which leads to pride, ego and arrogance. Deny the self says, “I love God more than my own reputation.” At the same time, it refuses to allow our selves to say or do anything that takes away from being made in the image of God. Meaning, we will not give the self the right to think or say things that are contrary to what God says about us. Speaking badly about our selves is self-denial, which is the counterfeit of deny the self. It is false humility and has no place in the life of the believer. It is also used as bait in order to get someone else to exalt us. For example, a person may say, “I’m such a loser,” in order to hear someone else respond, “Oh no, you are wonderful.” Denying the self gives God total Ownership in our life. Instead of us, determining what is righteous, evil, good, bad and so on, we let Him define all these things. It is a place where we cease from insisting on our own way. It allows our crucifixion on His terms.
When we take up our cross, we come to a place of complete submission to God. We give up total control, just as Jesus did at Gethsemane where He allowed Himself to be taken, beaten, falsely accused, mocked, and crucified (see Matthew 26:36-27:54; Mark 14:32-15:39). The word “Gethsemane” means oil press. It is a place of pressure where He submitted to the will of the Father. At the Cross, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law (see Galatians 3:13). His Blood satisfied the requirement of the law. The cross was the Romans’ favorite tool used for the execution of criminals and slaves. It was the worst form of humiliation anyone could endure. At the Cross, Jesus identified with us, as we were slaves to sin that made us criminals in the sight of God. He not only identified with us, he identified Himself with all our weaknesses, including our humiliation and shame. Now it is our turn to identify with Him, and stop asking Him to identify with us. We are called to be Christ-like. Our crucifixion means death to everything that is contrary to God’s nature, which enables us to be conformed to the Image of Jesus. Romans 6:3-7 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin (KJV). Often it is said that baptism is “an outward sign of an inward work,” but it is more than that. To be “baptized into,” means to be immersed into, much like immersing a piece of cloth in dye. It means to identify with, and in our case, being baptized into Jesus Christ means that we identify with Him, His character and all He stands for, along with His death and resurrection. It signifies ownership—the One we are identified with has complete ownership, and rule. Furthermore, baptism is a vow to continue in Christ Jesus and to take on His character, which includes the concept of “I die daily.” This goes along with Matthew 16:15, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (KJV). “Lose” means to destroy utterly, or put to death. Taking up our cross means the death of our flesh, which hinders our relationship with God. Ironically, death is the key to life, which ties in with “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way” (Matthew 7:14).
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me (KJV). Once we are crucified with Christ, He is free to live in us, whereby we follow Him. With ourselves counted as dead with Christ, we are free live by His faith and walk as sons and daughters of God.