“Then Jesus said 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; Mark 8:34).
“And He said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23).
Comments on these verses by H.A.Ironside:
“….ignore fleshly claims take up the cross(accepting the place of rejection with Him and thus they were to follow in His steps). He who would avoid “persecution for Christ’s sake, and so to save his life would really lose it, but he who was ready even to lay down his life for Christ’s sake would keep it unto life eternal.”
“Death in this world would be only the introduction to everlasting glory” Man was made to glorify God & enjoy Him forever. He who makes it his object to accumulate wealth, or the favor of a Christ-less world will lose out and find himself at last bereft of everything that is of any worth whatever.”
Arno Gabelein on the same verses:
The Lord “[states] in a few words all the great truths of the association of the believer with the Lord, which the Holy Spirit brings out so fully in the Epistles. (Read 1 Peter 2:21; John 12:24-26) A type is in Joshua 3 where the children of Israel followed behind the ark of the covenant. He has made the way and we follow Him. (1Peter 2:21) Is His path ours, too? We shall share His rejection. He is before us – we shall find abundant occasion to deny ourselves and take up our cross. He is the object of our affection – it will be [in degrees] a pleasure, a joy and a blessing then.
“Take up his cross”. These words are not to be understood as meaning that we should choose a cross. Begin only with self-denial and then the cross will come of itself. He says “his cross”; for He does not teach that we should bear the identical cross which He bore. Everyone’s cross has been prepared according to the measure of each one’s strength” 1 Cor. 10:13. (Martin Luther on the Gospels).
C.A. Coates’ comments:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 John the Baptist was the representative of man in the flesh. The very presence on earth of the 2nd Man out of heaven was morally the setting aside of the old order of man in the flesh. Thus in Job 29 we have self magnified; in John 3 we have self decreasing, one more step and we find self gone: “I am crucified with Christ; never the less I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me (Gal.2:20). Christ in us, becomes our motive object in our life as Christians. The law is no longer our motive or rule of life. The soul has a new center–no longer self-centered but Christ centered. Christ is the motive object and not self.”
H.A. Ironside on John 12:24-26:
“To the worldling it always looks as though a Christian is throwing away his life when he gives up worldly follies and pleasures and devotes himself to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. But he who does throw away his life in this respect actually finds it. It is the Christian who really enters into and enjoys the more blessed, deeper life.”
Summation by lkp
There is a point in time where the Holy Spirit brings the believer to Rom.12:1-2. Believers can be pressed to obey this command but until they understand what they are “presenting” and what it means, they present the flesh and not their life. God’s way is that the believer might know (discern) the flesh within to a degree that the believer sees the contrast between their flesh-life (self) and the Christ-life (new man versus old man).
When the believer is prepared to make Christ their motive for living then they are prepared to obey Rom.12:1-2. After that point in time, they look back on that decision and are reminded they are the bond slave of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a settled fact in their experience. This is not to say there will not be sin and failure and need to confess sin (1Jn.1:9) regularly. But the desire from the new nature will give the motive to continue as C.A. Coates phrased: “Christ lives in us, becomes our motive object in our life.”
This is a far greater motive than the law could ever produce in us. The Holy Spirit is in charge of this path…our part is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ that we may discern the difference between “self” and “Christ” in us and yield to God and not to the flesh. There are many failures and we learn through much trial and error but we do learn and become more consistent in our fellowship with the Lord and abiding in Him and the Spirit-filled Life.
We will never tap out the vast knowledge of God’s word …in fact we will learn “in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Jesus Christ.” Eph.2:7 The word “ages” includes all of eternity with Him. As Arno Gaebelein stated regarding the passages in the gospels on denying self: The Lord states in a few words all the great truths of the association of the believer with the Lord, which the Holy Spirit brings out so fully in the Epistles.” Our part is to follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings in study of the Word of God, especially the sanctification truths taught by the apostle Paul in Romans 6-8.
The Holy Spirit is faithful to give us truth and then to enlarge our understanding after learning each truth and give opportunities to “deny self” (refusing the sin nature) and accepting our place of “crucified with Christ” which results in “being alive to God”….a place where we are not resisting God’s ways with us and remaining in fellowship (communion) with God.
This is the path where we are “transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Along the way, we will discover layers of “self” that resists that Christ-like life but because of Romans 12: 1-2 we do not turn back but continue following how God leads. The Lord takes us up in this journey of being made conformable unto His death. His life in us will glorify Him and accomplish God’s will prepared before hand in each of us.