What does it mean to take up your cross daily?

Jesus said that to be His disciple, you have to “take up your cross daily.” How can you do that?

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Take up your cross daily: A condition for discipleship

“Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’ Luke 9:23.

What does Jesus mean when He says that you should take up your cross daily?

To “take up your cross” is something that has to take place in your thoughts. When thoughts that aren’t pleasing to God come to your mind during the day, you “put them to death” on an inner “cross.”

A judging thought toward your friend crops up, for example, or perhaps a grumbling thought of dissatisfaction for what you have to do today. As these thoughts come up in your mind, you choose to deny them. Your mind stands guard at the door of your heart, and you get to decide what comes through. When a sinful thought pops up in your mind the first time, it is only a temptation – a “suggestion” from Satan. But you can choose to deny that thought access to your heart! In practice, that means that as soon as you become aware of the thought, you disagree with it. You don’t dwell on it. The thought meets a firm “no” in your mind. You don’t permit the thought to pass through your mind and come into your heart. Denying these sinful thoughts is how you take up your cross daily.

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Suffer in the flesh – cease from sin!

It hurts to go against what you are naturally drawn to – to deny the thoughts that you naturally tend to think. Just like a physical cross causes suffering for the body, this metaphorical cross also causes suffering – for your flesh, that part of you that is drawn to sin, and which is denied its demands. But you have a good reason to choose to do this, and that is what is written in 1 Peter 4:1:

“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”

Let this be your motivation! This verse promises that when you suffer in your flesh, that is to say, when you take up your cross and deny the sinful thoughts that come up in you during the day, you will actually cease from sin! And it is not just a promise that will be fulfilled some unknown day far in the future – you see progress as you go. Perhaps you have a particular tendency to be harsh and cold to your peers. As you say “no” in temptation when these negative thoughts come, you notice as time passes that those thoughts don’t come as often anymore. It becomes easier for you to be good and warm and kind to the people around you. This is the fulfillment of that promise – you are becoming free from sin in that area!

Following Jesus: What did Jesus do?

This is what true discipleship is all about. It is a life that you live, daily, following after Jesus, your forerunner. What did Jesus do in His daily life? He had a firm resolve when He was tempted: “Not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42. He took up His cross and denied Himself. His temptations never resulted in sin – in word, in thought, or in deed.

It is also written that Jesus “… offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death.” Hebrews 5:7. That is what it takes to faithfully take up your cross daily! You have to cry out to your God for the strength to hold out – for the strength to say “no” and keep saying “no” in the time of temptation. You must humble yourself and have the same mind that Jesus had: “Not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Taking up your cross daily leads to transformation. You won’t always be the same person you are today. As you are cleansed from the sin in your nature, the fruits of the Spirit come in its place. Rather than being quick to judge and critical, or grumpy and downcast, you can radiate love and kindness and gentleness. (Galatians 5:22-23) Isn’t that hopeful?

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.