Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus: A Simple Path of Faith

“Take up your cross and follow me” holds a deep meaning for believers. It calls us to be ready, willing, and able to obey and submit to God’s will through faith. This short article intends to simplify this call, highlighting that it begins by responding to His call and keeping an open heart.

Jesus made it clear that following him does not mean adhering to a set of religious rules. Instead, he said, “If anyone desires to be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). In simple terms, this means disregarding your own interests and wholeheartedly attaching oneself to Jesus, living and, if necessary, dying according to his example.

Following Jesus is not just about adopting a new set of beliefs; it is a call to total surrender. “Not everyone who calls himself a Christian has fully surrendered to Christ. When you surrender your life completely to Christ, you no longer live like the world. This is the reality of a true disciple of Christ.” As Mark 8:36 asks, what good is gaining the whole world if it costs you your soul?

The apostle Paul exemplifies this surrender, stating, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20). This transformation is the essence of being a true disciple.

In Luke 9:24-25, Jesus points out that holding onto life leads to loss while surrendering it for His sake brings true life. The question posed is profound: And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? The answer is clear: nothing but destruction. Gaining the whole world but losing oneself results in nothing but destruction.

What Does It Mean to Follow Christ?

To follow Christ is to surrender, obey, and live in a way that aligns with His teachings. It is a transformation that goes beyond surface-level changes and leads to a life deeply rooted in faith and obedience.

Following Christ means adhering to his teachings, embodying his love, and striving to lead a life guided by compassion, humility, and service to others. It means surrendering to his will, seeking to imitate his example, and continually growing in faith and understanding. Ultimately, to follow Christ is to walk in the footsteps of love, grace, and redemption, allowing his message to transform our hearts and guide our actions.

If anyone desires to be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

Many label themselves Christians, “followers of Christ,” yet struggle to obey His instructions. The Bible is simple and clear, avoiding unnecessary complications. God respects our free will, allowing us to choose our path. The Lord does not force anyone to follow Him; it is a personal decision. Nevertheless, choose wisely, for Jesus affirms in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to him, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of his Father in heaven.”

Referring to Matthew 7:13-27, Jesus insists on the narrowness of His way. His disciples bear good fruit and stand on the solid foundation of God’s Word. Ignoring Christ’s warnings leads many down the path of destruction. Heaven is not reached without following the Master’s way.

A more straightforward version will help illuminate the key points: In Matthew 7:13-27, Jesus emphasizes that following His teachings is like taking a narrow path. Those who follow Him, like His disciples, live by God’s Word and produce positive outcomes. Ignoring His warnings leads to negative consequences. This conveys that reaching heaven requires following Jesus’ way. 

Consider these 5 Pillars of Faith: Answering His Call, Trusting God Completely, Receiving the Good News of Righteousness, Cultivating Faith through Hearing, and Embracing Obedience and Accountability. 

1. Answering His Call.

Taking up the cross begins with answering God’s call when we hear His voice. It is a gentle reminder not to harden our hearts when the Lord invites us to serve Him. Trusting Him, believing, submitting completely, loving, and obeying His teachings, even if we do not fully understand, are key aspects of responding to His call.

2. Trusting God Completely.

Trust is vital. Without it, we cannot please God, according to Hebrews 11:6. Walking with God requires a belief in His existence and a conviction that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Romans 1:17 further assures us that by faith, a righteous person finds life.

3. Good News of Righteousness. 

The Good News is that God makes us righteous in His sight. This righteousness is not earned but received entirely by faith, as stated in Romans 1:17. It is a reassuring message of God’s love and acceptance.

4. Faith Comes from Hearing. 

Romans 10:17 sheds light on the source of faith—it comes from hearing the word of Christ. Engaging with His teachings and immersing ourselves in the Scriptures are essential in cultivating and strengthening our faith.

5. Obedience and Accountability.

Confession and repentance are not burdens but blessings, paving the way for growth and divine alignment. Accountability in faith deepens our relationship with God and fellow believers. 

When you confess your mistakes (sins) and repent for them, it is not something to feel burdened by. Instead, it is a blessing because it allows you to grow spiritually and become more aligned with divine principles. Being accountable for your actions in your faith strengthens your connection with God and with other believers. Therefore, it is not about feeling guilty, but rather about finding opportunities for growth and deepening your relationship with your faith community and with God. 

Several Bible verses align with the themes in the quote:

1. James 5:16 (NIV):

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” This verse emphasizes the importance of confession and accountability within a community of believers.

2. 1 John 1:9 (NIV):

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This verse highlights the concept of confession leading to forgiveness and purification.

3. Proverbs 27:17 (NIV):

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This verse speaks to the idea of mutual accountability and growth within the faith community.

These verses reflect the idea that confession, repentance, and accountability are essential or necessary parts of the Christian faith and are seen as opportunities for spiritual growth and alignment with God’s will.

Embracing a life of faith.

Embracing a life of faith often involves taking up one’s cross and following the teachings of Jesus. This simple yet profound path challenges us to face our struggles and carry the burdens that come our way with grace and resilience. Just as Jesus carried his cross, we are called to carry our challenges, confident that, through faith, we can find strength and purpose in this journey. -John 19:16-17.

Taking up one’s cross is more than just a word; it is an invitation to lead a life of sacrifice and service, which involves giving and helping others. This path encourages believers to focus on love, kindness, and putting others before themselves. By following Jesus’ example, we can face life’s trials with an unwavering commitment to our faith, fostering a deeper connection to our spiritual journey.

As we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we discover a profound truth: faith is not just a set of beliefs, but a transformative way of life. It is an ongoing process of growth, reflection, and learning, in which we find meaning and fulfillment in the challenges we face. By taking this simple path of faith, we align ourselves with a higher purpose, discovering a profound sense of peace and joy in our spiritual journey.

This idea is reflected in Jesus’ words when he told his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Conclusion

Taking up your cross and following Jesus is a simple yet profound journey of faith. It starts with answering His call, keeping an open heart, and trusting God completely. The Scriptures remind us that many are called, but few are chosen. -Matthew 22:14. Let us be among those who respond faithfully, believing that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

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-Charlene L. Kazay

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