The story of Polycarp
Matthew 16:24 - Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Without a doubt, we would include this verse in our collection of “hard sayings of Christ.” But we can’t ignore the truth that Jesus is calling us to a denial of our fleshly desire, a death to our old life, and a commitment to follow.
Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.
When Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow Me” he means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender.
To deny yourself is not the giving up of things but the giving up of yourself wholly and completely to the Lord Jesus.
What do we gain for all of this denial and surrender? What does Christ offer us? He offers us himself. We must see that while forgiveness, grace, and mercy are tremendous blessings, the greatest prize we gain is Jesus himself.
There is nothing this world offers that compares with knowing Christ.
Polycarp was willing to give his all…and he did. Our surrender to Christ may not require the actual laying down of our physical life, but Jesus will call us to make a complete commitment of our life to follow him.
- Why does Jesus call us to a "death to self?"
- In what areas of life are we to deny ourselves?
- What does it mean to follow Jesus?
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