Then Jesus told his disciples,“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[g]will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" Matthew 16:24-26 Speaking to those in 1st Century Jerusalem, when Jesus spoke about picking up one's cross and following Him, his hearers would know EXACTLY what He was saying. We see crosses adorning necklaces, clothing, decorations, and other such things daily. It has become a part of our art and fashion, and yet its meaning is lost to so many of us. Crosses, too, adorned Rome in Jesus' day, though fashion was hardly the term I'd use to describe it's presence. Crosses adorned Israel, and even the Roman world as a punishment, a slow, cruel death sentence for those who dared rebel against the Empire. So when Jesus spoke these words, His invitation was this: "come to me, and die." We see images of rebirth throughout the scriptures, none more apparent than in John 3 when Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to see the Kingdom, he must be born again. Consider for a minute what this process should mean for us, who say we're born again. Quite simply, and quite painfully, it means that we, too, must die. Is this a physical death? Possibly. I don't know what the future holds for me, or what you're called to do in this life. For 11 of the apostles (I include Paul, as John was the only one who lived to an old age), each one gave his life physically for Jesus, and several other disciples did as well. Not all are called to physically die for Jesus, but we are ALL called to put to death the old life, the life in the flesh. Why can't we have both? Because, as Paul wrote to the Galatians (And in other books as well), our Flesh is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit is at war with the flesh. We can't have it both ways. We either choose our flesh, or we live in the Spirit. For one to live, the other must die. And so this brings us to THIS choice. Death and TRUE Life, or Death and a second death. We must die to ourselves, so that Christ may free us, or we must choose our desires, our flesh, and thus die twice. One lies freedom, and other other eternal bondage. Choose Christ, and be free, now and forever.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world,[c]but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2