Putting the Flesh to Death to Seek After Christ

5 Mins read

While there are a vast number of Christians who are satisfied in simply getting by in their spiritual walk, there is a remnant that desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and die to self. The preaching of the cross has, for some time now, been watered down and made to be something that is merely received intellectually rather than carried spiritually.

Certainly the work of Christ comes with great comfort and the grace of God is amazing for those who have truly experienced its refreshing stream. Nevertheless, there are many who would say, “Accept the free gift of God!”, as though there were no price to pay.

Christ died for our sin… Absolutely. Christ accomplished what man could never do… This is surely a fact of history. But while all of this is true, there must be a cry to the Christian to carry his cross. Cross carrying has been transformed into something that people hang on a chain and wear around their neck.

But the weight of the cross can be crushing, for even the Son of God was helped by Simon to carry His cross up Golgotha’s hill. Ultimately, the Father assisted the Son in carrying His cross; in the same way, God will assist the Christian during times of great difficulty.

The Bible is full of comfort, encouragement, joy, and peace. However, the Bible is meant to be preached in its fullness, and when a lopsided cross is preached, it is of necessity to counterbalance the trend. It is easy to preach and accept a cross that does not come with a cost to the individual. It is easy to say, “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” rush out of the church as though sins have been forgiven, and then go back and live in the pig sty with the prodigal son. There is a problem with this illustration. In case you didn’t catch it, the prodigal son didn’t stay in the pig sty; he went home and sought to honor his father and live at his father’s side.

What’s the point of all this? Is it mere rambling for the sake of dramatic effect? It is not. Christians must examine themselves and see whether they are in the faith. Are they carrying a cross? If not, can they be sure they are following Jesus? Perhaps not. The Bible speaks for itself, and no one need defend it or seek to shield God from what He has said. Jesus made it clear that those who would walk with Christ must carry a cross with Christ and deny themselves.

Would you come after Christ?

Scripture says, “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” (Matt. 16:24). Jesus makes it clear that following Him is more than an intellectual matter. It is more than weighing one belief system up against another and deducing from the information that Christianity is the most viable option. It is more than praying a prayer or responding to an alter call. It is more than having someone pray over another that they would accept Christ. It is more than saying, “I believe.”

It is amazing to see that out of all of Christ’s opposition, the greatest of His opponents were actually those found within the “church.” Of those people, Christ said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matt. 15:8). One cannot simply talk properly about Christ; there must be a true relationship, or Christ will inevitably say, “…I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23). So the question remains, will you come after Christ? What are you willing to give up? What cost are you willing to pay?

The example of the rich young ruler

As someone starts to read his Bible, he will encounter a story of a man who is classically called the rich young ruler. The story is short and well known. Many who read this article will be very familiar with the story’s content. The man approaches Jesus, seeking an answer to his question concerning how to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him various commandments that he must keep in an answer to his question. He responds by telling Jesus that he has kept them all. Jesus then tells him to sell what he has and give the money he receives to the poor. The rich young ruler, in that moment, chose earthly riches over a heavenly reward.

Why is this story important? What’s the point? The point is that when someone starts to read his Bible, there is generally little concern over the fact that he is a lot like this rich young ruler. Simply put, this young man’s will was opposed to God’s will, and the man chose his own will over that of God’s.

As the same person continues to read his Bible, there should be a growing concern that there are ways in which he is like the rich young ruler. It will cause his eyes to stop on the page and think over the ramifications of what this man faced in his clinging to sin. The rich young ruler was called to action. Jesus spoke loudly in that moment, “If you would come after me, deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.”

“If… then” statements are prevalent in the Scriptures. Some of these statements are explicitly stated while others are implied. Explicitly stated “if… then” statements actually consist of the words “if… then.” An implied “if… then” statement can be found in Matthew 16:24. Jesus says, “If any man will come after me.” Here we can see the “if” part of the statement. Next comes the implied “then” statement when Jesus says, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” It could be thought of as though Jesus in essence is saying, “then let him deny himself,” “then let him take up his cross,” and “then let him come after me.”

The problem is the rich young ruler chose to do nothing of the sort. He had a desire to “come after Jesus,” but on his own terms.

Pick up your cross

What does it mean to pick up your cross? How can one know when he has a cross to bear? Times and seasons will arise when the cross will be heavier than others. Not all crosses are the same. Some hurt more than others; some do the job faster than others. Nevertheless, the cross was meant to kill. It meant the end of the road, the final stop. The cross was meant to slay the individual. If the cross brought the death of Christ, how much more should it slay those that are merely flesh and blood?
Jesus tells His disciples what it means to, “Pick up your cross.” In simple terms, picking up your cross means to deny the flesh and to submit to the will of God. This may sound easy, but it is not. Within a born-again believer, there is a war that is being waged. It is commonly referred to as a war between the flesh and the spirit. It is easy to be an unbeliever, because all that is there is the flesh: the unbeliever simply follows his flesh.

When someone becomes a Christian, he must now seek to crucify the flesh each day and carry his cross with Christ. The flesh will rise up, and the Christian must “deny himself” or “deny the flesh” thus bearing his cross with Christ.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He cried out to the Father, “…O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Times will arise in which the will of God will be hard, overwhelming, and will lead to anguish and sorrow. So it was with Christ; so it will be for those who would come after Him. Nevertheless, in the time of testing, Jesus aligned Himself with the will of God, took the cup, and thus bore the cross.

The Christian must do the same. The will of the flesh will seek to compete with the will of the Father. This is when the cross must come. Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow your Lord.


Father, I thank You for sending Jesus to carry a cross for me. I pray that You would assist me in carrying my cross for You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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