“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Bearing one’s cross means something quite different from bearing the ordinary burdens and troubles of life. These are common to all men, but the privilege of taking up and carrying the cross is the unique responsibility and privilege only of Christians, for it identifies them in a distinctive way with Christ.
The cross speaks of death by crucifixion, not just troubles, and not even any other type of death—only the death of the cross. There are at least five other references in the gospels challenging each true Christian to take up his cross and, like Christ, carry it to the place of execution (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21; Luke 9:23).
That is, the Christian is to be willing, like his Lord, to give his life, if need be, for the sake of the salvation of the lost. This is not a one-time act of dedication but a daily walk. “If any man will come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
There have been many Christian martyrs, of course, who have actually been slain—some even crucified—for the sake of Christ and the gospel. For most, however, bearing the cross means dying to self and one’s personal desires in order to live unreservedly for the Lord and His mission.
The apostle Paul expressed it perfectly when he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Therefore, we should be able to say with Paul, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 2:20; 6:14). HMM