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How to Carry Your Cross

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 16:24–28; Mark 8:34–38; 9:1; Luke 9:23–27

Being a faithful disciple of Jesus is not about making Him a part of your life; it is about giving Him your life. As Jesus Himself puts it, you are to deny yourself and take up your cross daily.


Imagine your life in terms of a corporate boardroom in some powerful corporation. There is a long table surrounded with leather chairs. An executive committee is seated around that table, and each member represents a different aspect of your life.

Seated there is your private self, your work self, your moral self, your recreational self, your relational self, your financial self, and so on. This is the boardroom of self.

Most of the time there is conflict in that boardroom as decisions are made; not every member agrees with one another. There is a lot of debate and argument; but eventually there is a vote. It is typically not a unanimous vote, but the majority opinion rules.

I think the average person today thinks that following Jesus means you invite Him to sit on that executive committee. You give Jesus a seat—maybe even at the head of the table. You make Him the chairman, and you give Him a vote too.

The truth is, the biblical perspective for a follower of Christ is that Jesus comes into that boardroom and fires every member of the committee. Being a consecrated disciple means saying to the Lord every day, “There’s only one vote now, and it’s all yours. You run every area of my life.”[1]

The Lord has just informed His disciples of some news that does not exactly fit with the direction of the executive committee of disciples. Jesus told them that He would be rejected and killed and then resurrected three days later.

Matthew’s account tells us that Peter, acting as the committee chairman, stepped forward and effectively told the Lord he was not going to vote for that. The other disciples were not going to vote that way either.

After the Lord rebuked Peter, they were all reminded that His mission was not up for a vote. And with that, the Lord delivers even more surprising news.

Without any apparent transition, he continues here in Luke 9:

“If anyone 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, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)

I must say that I am surprised by some theologians and pastors whom I greatly respect—people who hold to justification by faith alone. But they come to a passage like this and effectively turn salvation into justification by faith plus works.

Now they do not come out and say it that way, but they use this passage as a checklist for genuine salvation. In other words:

  • If you are ever ashamed of the Lord, you are probably not saved.
  • If you are not willing to deny yourself at times, you are probably not saved.
  • If you do not pick up your cross daily, you are probably not saved.
  • And if you are not willing to die for Christ at any moment, you are probably not saved either.

A passage like this becomes a club that keeps Christians fearful of not measuring up.

First of all, beloved, the context here is not salvation; it is consecration. Jesus has just informed His disciples that He is going to be killed. More than likely He has told them it will be by way of crucifixion because He now talks to them about their own cross to bear. So, Jesus is informing them that their lives are not going to be represented by a crown but by a cross.

Keep in mind that Jesus tells them to do something daily—take up your cross daily. So, according to many, if on any given day you do not take up your cross, you either lose your salvation or you never had it to begin with. This kind of what I call “graceless” interpretation leads the believer to introspection and insecurity and the conscientious believer to great discouragement.

Let me tell you, Jesus is not talking here about how to become a believer or how to prove you are a believer but how to live like a believer. Warren Wiersbe put it so well when he wrote on this text that Jesus is not talking about sonship; He is talking about discipleship.[2]

So, what does it mean to “carry your cross”? It means living a consecrated life. And here is how you do it.

First, it will involve an attitude of humility. Again, Jesus says here in verse 23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” Denying yourself does not mean depriving yourself of good desires and good things. Denying yourself means to surrender a self-centered life for a Christ-centered life. And that will take humility, because we would rather have the world revolve around us.

Second, a consecrated life involves a daily priority. Jesus says, “Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily.”

Taking up one’s cross daily is saying to the Lord, “There is only one vote today on how I live my life, and the vote is all Yours.” And this must be a daily priority because you are going to face new challenges on any given day: new people, new problems, new forms of persecution, new temptations.

By the way, Jesus says something so obvious here that we easily miss it. He says, “Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” “Follow” here means you get behind “someone and travel in the same direction.”[3] Do not miss the obvious: to follow Christ means He determines the direction.

If the Lord is driving, that means we travel at His speed. Sometimes He picks up the pace, and we struggle to keep up, and sometimes He travels too slow for our liking. But He is in the driver’s seat, and there are no backseat drivers.

Now the Lord delivers a third aspect of a consecrated life—namely, a consecrated life remembers a future accountability. In other words, we are not going to forget what is coming next. Jesus says in verse 26, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed.”

Jesus does not say the Son of Man will be finished with him or the Son of Man will reject him. No, He says the Son of Man will be ashamed of him.

There is a coming day of accountability for the believer at the judgment seat, or bēma, of Christ. That judgment is not to find out if you get into heaven but to assess how you lived on earth, in light of heaven.

The bēma will be a time of sadness and gladness—sadness over what we did not do for Christ and gladness over what we did for Him. Every faithful act of service to the Lord will be rewarded. So, keep that in mind, do not be ashamed of the gospel, and do not back down if you are ridiculed or rejected. Ask Christ for courage to identify with Him today and to tell others about Him.

Now with that, Jesus makes this interesting statement in verse 27: “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” I believe that refers to a little foretaste of the glorious kingdom given to three of the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, as described in the following verses. That will be next time on our Wisdom Journey.

In the meantime, how do you carry your cross? How do you live a consecrated life? With humility, priority, and accountability. So, for starters, go into that boardroom of your heart every morning and fire the board members on that committee of “self.” And tell Jesus there is only one vote that is going to count on how you live your life today—that vote belongs only to Him.

[1] “Accepting Jesus Means Firing the Committee in Our Heart,” Sermon Illustrations,

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Compassionate (Victor Books, 1989), 207.

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 231.

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