How to Deny Yourself, Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Jesus says that true disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him, so how can believers do that?

Denying Self

Jesus says that true disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him, so how can believers do that? Just after telling the disciples He was going to Jerusalem to die, Peter rebuked the Lord, telling Him this is not to be. That’s when “Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). We must deny our own agenda for our life. Jesus came to do the will of the Father, submitting to the plan of salvation. If we do not deny ourselves, then we will lose our soul, basically, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:25). Step one of being Jesus’ disciples is to deny one’s self and submit to the Father’s will. If we do not deny ourselves, we will never take up our cross and if we fail to pick up our cross, we’ll fail to follow Jesus because He commands us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

Taking Up Your Cross

Of course, Jesus never meant we are to take up a literal cross and go to be crucified somewhere when He said we are to take up our cross. The meaning of taking up our cross is that we suffer persecution for sharing the gospel or for His name’s sake. If we share Christ, persecution will come. It’s not a matter of if, but when. The Apostle Paul promised that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). He means “all,” not most, but only those who live godly lives will be persecuted, so what does living godly lives bring? It brings persecution, but that should be the norm for believers (Acts 14:22; 2 Cor 4:9). What would really be strange is a believer who never suffered for their faith. If that’s so, they never shared Christ with anyone, thus being disobedient to the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20), or they’ve never been saved in the first place and have no desire like God does that the wicked should not perish apart from Christ (2 Pet 3:9).

Following Jesus

We cannot follow Jesus if we fail to deny ourselves, but if we’ve denied ourselves, we’ve obviously taken up our cross of persecution, and then we follow Jesus wherever He would go if still here on the earth. That means He’d visit those in prison, the sick, the poor, the strangers or aliens (Matt 25:35-36). Jesus was a friend of sinners, while not condoning the sin. He made the first move and so must we. He loved us first (1 John 4:19) so we’ll have to love others first and love them enough to be willing to be scorned and ridiculed for our faith. We must tell them the truth of the whole gospel; of the bad news of God’s wrath upon sinners but the good news of God’s forgiveness for those who trust in Christ. Even though most will reject our message and make excuses (Matt 8:18-22), we are still commanded to keep sharing the faith.

Dying to Self

Jesus was clear in saying that “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). If we are not bearing up under persecution and we leave the faith, it shows we were never part of the Body of Christ in the first place (1 John 2:19). If we have never once faced persecution for our faith, then we’re either not living a godly life and we’re living like the world, and may not even be saved at all. To fail to deny ourselves is the same as denying Christ before others, and that’s serious (Matt 10:33).

Embracing Persecution

When we are persecuted, we ought to rejoice to be found worthy to suffer for His name’s sake because “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Pet 4:14). Don’t you want that?! When the disciples were imprisoned and then beaten for their sharing Christ, they didn’t complain to the authorities or submit prayer requests to the church for it to stop. Instead, “they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).

Suffering for sharing the gospel is well pleasing to God and gives believers God’s blessing. Don’t we want to be associated with Jesus Christ and tell anyone who has ears about Him? We have the best news in the universe so how can we not share such a great pearl of infinite worth? It’s much too good of good news to keep to ourselves. Today, around 160,000 people will die, most without Christ and forever separated from God, and yet, only 2% of believers share their faith. The Great Commission has now become the “great omission.” Our silence before others is a deadly sin of omission for those who are perishing; worse even than a sin of commission.


I pray you’ve already trusted in Christ and that you have begun to deny yourself and take up your cross of persecution and then follow Jesus’ teachings from Scripture, going where He would go to take the gospel into all the world, while not forgetting to go next door! If you have still not yet trusted in Christ, you will be shut out of the coming Kingdom of Heaven. You will be turned away because you might think you’re good enough of a person to go to heaven (Matt 7:21-23). Unless you repent today and trust in Christ, you will surely face God’s judgment after death (Heb 9:27) or at Jesus Christ’s appearance at the Great While Throne Judgment (Rev 20:12-15). Choose today, while it’s still called today (2 Cor 6:2), for tomorrow may never even come.

Here is some related reading for you: What Does it Mean to Take Up Your Cross Daily?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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