Deny Yourself and Take Up Your Cross | Matthew 16

Welcome to Real Life. Tell me something good. You can catch more flies with honey. Let’s talk about the love, joy and peace found in Christeasy, happy stuff. But, that's only part of the story. The path that follows Christ is narrow and often hard.[1] 

Jesus mentored twelve men. These guys sat on a hillside and listened to him teach the Sermon on the Mount with a wisdom and authority beyond this world. They watched him walk on the surface of an angry sea and then calm the storm with words. They stood beside him as he spat in mud, smeared it on a blind man’s eyelids, and restored his sight. After three supernatural years together, Jesus asks these twelve disciples who they think he is. Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Now that they understand who he is, Jesus prepares them for the hard road ahead: “He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”[2]

Again, Peter takes the lead, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” He knows Jesus possesses limitless power. So why would his Lord subject himself to suffering and death at the hands of the religious establishment—especially now? The ministry is exploding in popularity and power. They are celebrities in Israel.

The Lord sets him straight, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

What things were in God’s mind? To seek and save the lost.[3] Jesus did not come for fame and glory. He came to sacrifice his life as a ransom for sinners.[4] Those who follow Christ must follow his example. He tells the disciples:

“If anyone would come after me, 
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, 
but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, 
yet forfeits his soul? 
Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory 
with his angels, and then he will reward each person 
according to what he has done.”[5] 

Deny myself. Hard words. My scale and wallet attest to the difficulty. The twelve apostles left everything to follow Christ. Years ago, when I decided to follow Jesus, I left behind my old network of friends and drugs and parties. What does denying myself look like today (besides not eating another cookie)? It's refusing judgmental thoughts, selfish ambitions, grudges, complaining ... It's giving an offering to God before spending money on myself. It's serving when I'd rather be served. It's choosing to love when I don't feel like it. It's not easy. (Nothing worthwhile is.) And I often mess up. But, the narrow path that follows Christ leads to life and peace.

Take up my cross. The climate is growing increasingly anti-Christian. "More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined." Some will not like me, some may even hate me, because of my allegiance to Christ. He suffered for me. Will I suffer for him?

Save my life and lose it. Lose my life for Christ and find it. Losing my life for Christ is more than physical. It’s also surrendering my right to plan my future and following his plan instead. I once viewed surrender to Christ like surrender to assimilation in the Borg. I lose all individuality, desires, and choices and merge into the stereotypical Christian. Actually, the opposite happened. Because God created me uniquely, in losing my life to him, I became more myself. I no longer feel pressure to be the person everyone else wants me to be. I am free. I found my true self in Christ.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. Carl Jung 

What good is it to gain the whole world, and lose my soul? When John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money was enough, he replied, "A little bit more." The pursuit of more is a trap. Nothing this jaded world offers me is worth missing heaven
a place of perfect love, peace, and joy.

Jesus is coming again. Though heaven is gained by faith in Christ (not good works),[6] he does reward good works. It is not easy, but the benefits of following Christ far outweigh the losses. If only I can look beyond today.

Taking it further …

  • Good Friday is March 29. It’s a yearly reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Will you deny yourself and follow Jesus? It can begin with a simple prayer (something like): 
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for suffering and dying for me. I confess that I am a sinner. Please forgive me. Cleanse me. I surrender my life to you. Please come into my heart and life. I choose to follow you. 

To speak with a counselor, call 888-NEED-HIM. Or, learn more at

  • “Jesus' call to follow him is more than an invitation to pray a prayer. It is a summons to lose your life. And find new life in him.” —David Platt. Read his book, Follow Me.

[1] Matthew 7:13-14
[2] Matthew 16:21 NIV 1984
[3] “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
[4] Matthew 20:28
[5] Matthew 16:24-27
[6] “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).


  1. I love the way you write about Jesus, Peggi. So many think, and are often misled to believe, that they must be perfect before they can accept Him. Thank God that's not true. The Sermon on the Mount is a great place to start for those who are seeking.

    1. Thanks, Linnea! No, we're never perfect in this world. We come to Jesus just as we are. So thankful for his grace!

  2. Hi My Dear Friend,

    Taking up the cross and following him, how often I struggle with that. I live in a society where the cross is not popular anymore. The Lutheran churches in Germany are empty every Sunday. You will only find a full house on Christmas and Easter. I attend a Charismatic church and we experience hard trials because our pastor is preaching the message of the cross and his church members are trying to live it according to the word of God.

    Especially here in Europe there is an anti Christ movement that is unbelievable. But was does it say in Daniel 11 as the world gets darker the children who know their God will do exploits.

    Thank you for this wonderful article.

    Love you, Peggi.


    1. Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for sharing the perspective of the anti-Christian culture of Europe. America is heading in that direction as well.

      I thank God for you, Patricia. You are one of his own dear children, a remnant, a beautiful light shining in a dark place. Yes, you are doing exploits for God! Go, Patricia!

      Love you, friend! Peggi

  3. A great article for thought. God's Word is a great place to search for truth. It is
    the searching for instructions from the Author, the creator, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. May I share a web page of thoughts to check out? Thanks,
    Esther Thornburg

    1. Hi Esther,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Jesus said that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

      I did check out your webpage. It is lovely and full of great thoughts to meditate on. Thanks for sharing!

    2. I to, like the book of John as it discribes Salvation and is written to the
      nations of the world. Great to share.


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