Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
[Matt 16:24 NET]
Not only was the way of suffering the divinely appointed way for Jesus Himself, but it is the way also in which His followers must walk. He walked among the thorns and through the dark valleys, because along these ways lay His path to glory.
We cannot do Christ’s will and refuse to walk in the hard paths in which He walked. We must deny ourselves, if we would be Christ’s disciples. Self–denial means the dethroning of self and the seating of Christ upon the heart’s throne. When we deny ourselves we do not go our own way, we accept Christ and follow Him.
Taking up the cross is also important in discipleship. The cross stands for anything that is a hard or painful duty. There is no merit in carrying a cross merely for the sake of the cross; it must be taken up because it comes in the way of obedience. There is no merit in making crosses for ourselves; the only cross that brings blessing is that we find in following Christ.