Today we are looking at Mark 8:34, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (NASB) As I was working on my Bible Journaling page, I began to think about what this verse means.
I thought about denying oneself. I looked up some pages on the Internet to see what others said about this, and I found that denying oneself isn’t thinking of ourselves as worthless, but it is more like thinking less of ourselves. C.S. Lewis said, “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.” It isn’t that we don’t love ourselves, the Bible says we already do that because it is natural for us to love ourselves, (Ephesians 5:29) but the idea is that we love God more. Everything we do, think, and say, should be with Him in mind.
As we come into the presence of God, our attitude should be all about Him and not about ourselves. What would He want of us? What can we do to show Him the honor that is due Him? We should be looking to desire His will in our lives instead of always wanting our own will and thinking about what we can get out of a situation that will be good for us.
The next thing this verse talks about is taking up our cross. Life gives us many struggles, and some think that this is the cross Jesus is talking about. But I don’t believe this is what the verse is saying. In Jesus’ day, if someone had to carry a cross it meant that the journey ended with that person’s death. So, carrying our cross means to die to ourselves. Die to our wants, die to our attitudes, die to those things that keep us from following Christ and living for Him. I learned from a Christian radio program a long time ago that this also means obedience. Look at the word “obedience”, right in the middle of the word is another word… “die.” For us to be obedient, we must die to ourselves.
Lastly, we are to follow Christ. When I think about this part of the verse I am reminded of the rich, young, ruler who came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to be saved. Jesus told him to follow the Ten Commandments, and the young man said he kept all of those and wanted to know what else he needed to do. Jesus told him to give his possessions to the poor, and he went away heartbroken because he was very wealthy. He loved his wealth more than his desire to follow Jesus. (Matthew 19:16-22) He couldn’t die to those things that held his heart.
Following Jesus requires every part of us. There may be times when we must turn away from people, places, actions, or attitudes that would draw us away from following the pathway Jesus is leading us on. Our first thought should be, “Would Jesus want this for me?” Following Him isn’t always easy. There can be situations that are difficult for us that we need to walk through. We may not know why, but just know that the outcome will be for our good.
As I look at the verse, I see steps we are to take. We are to Deny, Take Up, and Follow! Deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus! Only then can we truly find the peace and joy that can be found in Jesus Christ!