What comes to mind when you see a cross? Maybe you think of it as the symbol of the church or of Christianity. For many, the cross is a fashion accessory or maybe even a tattoo. The early church, however, did not use a cross as their symbol; they used the fish as their symbol. The early church did not wear crosses; they died on crosses. It was an upsetting, shocking image.
In the first century, people who lived in any area occupied by the Romans knew about crosses, because the Romans had a penchant for crucifying people. Crucifixion was not an efficient way to put a person to death. There were far more effective ways. The Romans used crucifixion as a means of torture. They used it to inflict the maximum amount of pain. They crucified people and put them on public display to serve as a warning to anyone who would dare defy the power of Rome.
That’s why Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24 NKJV). It was an alarming way to phrase it. And it meant one thing: death. That sounds pretty unappealing. You imagine yourself living a miserable, sacrificial life—an unhappy life.
But Jesus went on to say, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (verse 25 NKJV). The fact of the matter is that when you’re truly taking up your cross, you’re experiencing life.
The objective is not to learn to love yourself; it is to deny yourself. If you actually want to find yourself, then lose yourself. And how do you lose yourself? You take up your cross and follow Him.