If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23.
Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny..." What? "himself." Sometimes we read other things in there. Let him deny this or that or the other habit or practice or thing. I used to think that the cross was making myself not do something I really liked to do. I've heard other people say it too. "My cross is giving up my dancing. I can't dance anymore. I sure wish I could, but that's my cross." That is not what Jesus is talking about. No, the cross is to deny self. Let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
Surrender is the surrender of ourselves, the giving up of ourselves. That's why the wrong understanding of surrender often leads to an escape, or substitute for the genuine. If I am big enough and strong enough and have enough backbone and willpower to give up this or that or the other thing, I can trick myself into thinking that I have surrendered myself. The truth is that I may have done just the opposite. If I think I can surrender my smoking, and I succeed in quitting smoking by myself, without the power of God, I may have created the atmosphere in which I will find my own damnation. Why? I may live a little longer without lung cancer, but during the time I am living longer, I am going to be ascribing glory and honor and credit to myself for having accomplished and succeeded, and will invariably want merit for my own achievement. Is this possible? The truth is that apart from Jesus I can give up my smoking or drinking or dancing only externally, anyway. Inside I'm still the same. The cross is not refusing to do something we would like to do. It's denying ourselves.
This cross must be taken up how often? Once, at the beginning of my Christian life? No, daily. Listen to this: "Genuine conversion is needed, not once in years, but daily. This conversion brings man into a new relation with God. Old things, his natural passions and hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong, pass away, and he is renewed and sanctified. But this work must be continual....No renewed heart can be kept in a condition of sweetness without the daily application of the salt of the word. Divine grace must be received daily, or no man will stay converted."--Ellen G. White in Review and Herald, Sept. 14, 1897.