Paradoxically, it is only by dying that we may truly live. When baptized, we (ideally) died to our old nature and rose again to a new life. It would have been wonderful if the old man of sin had permanently died when we were buried under baptismal waters. Sooner or later, however, all of us have discovered that our past habits and tendencies are still alive and do strive to regain control of our lives. After our baptism, our old nature has to be put to death again and again. That is why Jesus associated the Christian life with a cross.
What does Luke 9:23-24 mean? Many think the cross they have to bear is a serious sickness, unfavorable circumstances in life, or a permanent disability. While any of these surely is heavy, the meaning of Jesus’ words goes further. To take up our cross means to deny ourselves daily. Not just once in a while but every day; not just a part of us but our entire being. The Christian life is a cruciform life. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20, NKJV). In the ancient world, the victims of crucifixion did not die immediately. Usually, they agonized for many hours, sometimes several days, while hanging on the cross. Our old nature, although crucified, fights to survive and get down from the cross. It is not easy to deny ourselves. Our old nature lingers on; our old man doesn’t want to die. Moreover, we cannot nail ourselves to the cross. No man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work. Then the language of the soul will be, Lord, take my heart; for I cannot give it. It is Thy property. Keep it pure, for I cannot keep it for Thee. Save me in spite of myself, my weak, unchristlike self. Mold me, fashion me, raise me into a pure and holy atmosphere, where the rich current of Thy love can flow through my soul. It is not only at the beginning of the Christian life that this renunciation of self is to be made. At every advance step heavenward it is to be renewed. . . . Only by constant renunciation of self and dependence on Christ can we walk safely. — Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 159, 160. There must be a daily surrendering to the Lord. When was the last time you died to self? What does your answer say to you, especially in light of today’s texts?