“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” Mark 8:34
We do not need to be all that bright to realise that we cannot rise from the dead without first dying. If we are to experience Christ’s resurrection life we must first die to ourselves, be buried, and don’t try and exhume ourselves.
The subtleties of Satan and sin will be working to exhume our old lives so as to deprive us of resurrection life. It is therefore important to continue to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11). To reckon means to count on it as fact because it is factual. This is not brainwashing or self deceit; it is believing what God has revealed as true. Not to believe what He has said is to blaspheme His name by calling Him a liar.
On resurrection Sunday we focus especially on Christ’s resurrection but we must never forget that it was necessary for Him to first die. Similarly, we cannot expect resurrection life in us without our first dying to self.
Luke records Jesus’ description of one who has died to self in Luke 14:25-33.
- He loves Jesus more than any other person such that it appears to observers that he hates even his own family
- He is loyal to Jesus though it costs him suffering, persecution and all material possessions (i.e. Job)
- He clings to Jesus but holds everything else with loose fingers
Jesus is not just talking theology; He is speaking of moment by moment, day by day attitude and application in our relationship with Himself. The question for us is, do we really want Jesus and do we want to come after Him or do we just want only what He gives?
The thieves on the crosses either side of Jesus owned nothing and they had no earthly future. That is what it is to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We become as they were and we say to Jesus as one did, “Remember me.” We have no claim on God for anything but the blood of Jesus shed on that cross. Like the thieves we justly deserve the wrath of God.
If we are to live resurrection life now we must first die to self. Martha made the mistake of thinking that resurrection life was only possible after bodily death (John 11:24) but Jesus corrected her. He is the resurrection and the life. To all who die to self, He lives His resurrection life in and through them now and forevermore. Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
It is very easy for us to accept this verse as true but not actually live it. Jesus cannot live His life in and through us if we exhume our own will and ambition. Self must remain buried. Jesus Christ and self cannot both be alive. We sing the following words; let them be true from the heart.
“All of my ambitions, hopes and plans,
I surrender these into your hands”