by Rev. Dee Miller – Visitation Pastor / Valpo FUMC
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
People sometimes will use the expression, “We all have our cross to bear.” But our cross to bear is not whatever we find difficult in life. The cross to bear, so to speak, is the same for everyone: it is dying to self.
Dying to self means resisting the temptation to do what everyone else is doing when you know it is wrong. Dying to self means forgiving instead of harboring a grudge. Dying to self means putting down the remote control and picking up the Bible. Dying to self means praying when you would rather be sleeping. Dying to self means swallowing your pride and telling someone about Jesus Christ. Dying to self means doing what God wants you to do rather than doing what you want to do.
Jesus said, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). That does not mean you must take a vow of poverty and give every possession away to be a disciple of Jesus. “Forsake all” literally could be translated, “Surrender your claim to, say good-bye to.” This means that true disciples of Jesus are not possessed by their possessions.
When you die to yourself and take up the cross, you will experience joy and an overflowing life. The apostle Paul put it this way: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Nearly 15 years, ago, I found myself in a battle with cancer for my life. As chemotherapy continued to strip me of all my known defenses, I turned to my faith and realized that the one true constant that I could depend on was Christ who lived within me in my heart, my mind and my soul. Christ’s love, grace, mercy and compassion was what allowed me to continue the fight even when my body could fight no more. Every day I would read Christ’s word, and I would be able to take on another day. When I was well enough to return to the office at the church, I literally knelt down at the foot of the cross and thanked God for blessing my life. That day, my husband died and left myself and my children with more questions than answers as we all died to self again as we gave up the security of the worldly life that we had known and found ourselves once again digging deep to find God’s grace that was sufficient to support each of us as we moved forward in life.
So, If you want to be a disciple, then you must love God more than anyone or anything else. You must deny yourself. And you must take up the cross and follow Jesus. Then you will find joy abundant.