“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
— Mark 8:34

Following Jesus means more than listening to him and agreeing with his teachings. Jesus says that whoever wants to be his disciple “must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow” him.
Notice that Jesus says we must deny our selves, not that we must deny ourselves something—like chocolate or a new car. We are to deny our own self-interest, self-absorption, and pride. The misguided self must be replaced with a new self that is being shaped to be like Jesus. And, like Jesus, this new self is not here to be served, but to serve, and to give its life for others (Mark 10:45).
What does it mean to take up our cross? It means being willing to sacrifice our own desires and to give of ourselves so that others may come to know Jesus and want to follow him. That’s what he did for us, and he calls us to follow his example, even to the point of suffering and giving up our own life, if necessary.
Jesus took up his cross and let himself be crucified, once for all, so that our old selves could be crucified, set free from sin, and made new through him (Romans 6:6-7; Galatians 5:24). And by the power of the Holy Spirit, who gives us new life in Christ, we are called to take on the self-sacrificial life of Christ. Jesus explains: “Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Jesus, help us to follow you. Fill us with your Spirit so that we may deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow you. Amen.

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