Luke 9:23, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
If there’s one word that I could describe the Christian life in, I think the word I would choose is death. Now, that might strike you as odd, but just hear me out. The Christian life is full of paradoxes (take the beatitudes from the Sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” for example) but the greatest and most powerful paradox is the principal of life through death.
Jesus is the very example of this, dying so that we might have life. And so we are asked to follow His example (Luke 9:24), though not literally for most of us (although many have and many more will give their mortal lives) we will have to die to our thoughts, desires, and temptations of the flesh. This is why Paul said that he was crucified with Christ and he no longer lived (Galatians 2:19-21). The point is that we must at all costs resist the temptation to sin.
John the Apostle said, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous” (1 John 3:6-7). Yet, previously, John said that those who say that they have no sin deceive themselves and they do not have the truth in them (John 1:8). And again, if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate before the Father (John 2:1). The point here is not to say that if you sin after accepting Jesus, you are not a Christian and you’re going to be condemned to the fiery pit. But rather, if we really desire that close intimate relationship with God, we must put away that sin. And also, when we’re in that close intimate relationship with God, He gives us power over sin.
In Exodus 19, God had wanted to meet with the people of Israel, He commanded the people to consecrate (set aside) themselves. And the people of Israel did consecrate themselves, but that wasn’t enough. They didn’t have the heart that God desired. Moses was telling the second generation of Israelites of his conversation with God on Mount Sinai in Deuteronomy 5:29 where God said, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!”
That happens with us a lot today. We consecrate ourselves by accepting Jesus and we are made clean (justification). But there’s got to be something more, a heart and desire to follow after God and do what He commands, this is sanctification. Sanctification could be described as dying to self and living out God’s desires for our lives by following His will. And this is exactly what John is talking about, that while all of our sins are forgiven by Jesus, if we desire that close intimate relationship (fellowship) with God (God also desires a close relationship with us) we must desire to follow after His commandments.
This does not mean that if we stumble and sin we forfeit that relationship with God. We must always look toward Jesus the Founder of our Faith. Jesus, being lead to Golgatha, beaten and bruised in the flesh, could not bear the weight of the cross on His own (Matthew 27:2). Yet He pressed on for the joy that was set before Him and continued (Hebrews 12:2). So we must follow in His example, when we are beaten and bruised by sin, we too must press on. As Jesus had the help of Simon the Cyrene to carry the cross, we should have the help of one another.