"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." Matthew 16:24
Our lives, as new creations in Christ Jesus, rests fundamentally on faith in the work and witness of His life, His witness, His suffering, His death, His burial, and His resurrection. Do we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He is alive from the dead? That belief is first and foremost.
"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Hebrews 11:6
The foundation of our walk of faith in following Jesus is five-fold.
The First is we must believe that God is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
The Second is, we must believe that God has raised Jesus from the dead and that He is alive today.
The Third is, we must deny ourselves and take up our cross, and follow Him.
"And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, 'Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.' " Mark 8:34
The Fourth is we must surrender all our human authority to His Word, the Word of God, so that Christ would have pre-eminence in our lives, in all our decisions, in all our words and actions, and in the meditations of our hearts.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs..." Colossians 3:16
"But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." 1 John 2:5-6
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." John 14:15
"If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love." John 15:10
"If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." John 15:7
"What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him." John 6:62
And the Fifth is that we must submit ourselves exclusively to the wisdom, the leading, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John 14:26
"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me..." John 15:26
"But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8
These, The Father, The Creator and The Giver of Life, The Son, The Word, Our Lord and Savior, Our Redeemer from death, hell and the grave, and The Holy Spirit, the Wisdom and the Power of God, The Revealer of the Father, and the Son, these Three in One, form the foundation of what it means to be a Son of God.
Neither is greater than the other. They are all One. And if we be Christ's, if we are born again by His Spirit from above then the fullness of the Godhead dwells in us.
Christ in us is our hope of glory. The Holy Spirit in us is our witness that we have eternal life, The Father in us is the witness of His love in our hearts, when we love Him and keep His commandments.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our bode with him." John 14:23
On the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested falsely He told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed. Even though with great protesting Peter said he would never deny Him. Nevertheless, he did. And it grieved him deeply that he denied Him, despite his earnest desire that he would be bold and stand up to the pressure to not identify with Him when the Sanhedrin took Him away, cruelly punishing him, mocking him, and scourging and torching him in their ridicule, arrogance, pride, and disobedience to their own laws, despising and rejecting Him, even though He had done nothing wrong, but expose their sin and hypocrisy.
Peter denied Him because of fear and because of the weakness of our flesh, our frail humanity.
But Jesus said to His disciples, before He was crucified, if you want to follow me you must deny yourself first.
To deny ourselves means we come to Jesus with no agenda, no identity other than that we are sinners in need of a Savior. We must come as blank canvases as far as who we think we are or think we should be. We must relinquish all that. We must deny all that. Even at the most fundamental level of who we think ourselves to be. Before Him, we come as nobody, as nothing.
We acknowledge, as did the apostle, in us is no good thing.
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." Romans 7:18
I cannot come to Jesus on the basis of my worthiness or follow Him on the basis that I possess anything of value that I can claim as my starting point, other than I am less than 0, because I am in debt to sin.
If I am truly going to follow Jesus, I must decide to follow Him exclusively!
My allegiance cannot be divided between Jesus and anyone else or an anything else, including myself, or the dictates of my heart to satisfy the desires of my flesh and my untransformed mind.
Whatever my old desires, passions and habits were, I cannot hold on to those and to Him at the same time. My flesh, apart from God only wants to satisfy its urges and lusts, its cravings for its base nature of sin.
My mind, unrenewed and untransformed, can deceive me. My flesh, even if all its desires are fulfilled, can never be fully satisfied because the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life are not from God.
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1 John 2:16
Where then is boasting? If I am a follower of Christ, then I have no claim on my life, and therefore, I am a willing and thankful slave to the One who loved me and gave His life for me. For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. [Galatians 2:20]
When we deny ourself we then become able to identify with Christ. To take up our cross is to bear about with us the dying of our old self in order to live the fullness of life in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus carried His cross to calvary, laid Himself down on it and died for all my sins and was buried. Then, He rose up from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and walked the earth showing Himself alive to over 500 people before is ascension to the Father.
We now likewise, daily are called to take up our cross, and follow Him to the place where we lay our lives down and let the old man of sin that we were be crucified with Christ and be buried in the renewing baptism of being filled daily with the Holy Spirit. Then, rising up to live, we walk in the world as His ambassadors, as salt and light to the world, as His witnesses of His resurrection, and proclaim the good news of the Gospel, the life of Christ to the world, until that day that God calls us home, or Jesus returns and we are caught up together with Him in the air.
By denying myself and taking up my cross and following Jesus, I take hold of the transforming power of God to embrace the fullness of His glory given to me in the person of Jesus Christ my Lord, and to become a son of God and a joint heir with Him to all that God has created for His good pleasure. This is what it means to follow Christ, to be made like Him day by day.