“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34 (ESV) 
Judson Van de Venter penned the words to the hymn, “I Surrender All.” As a child, I recall singing this song in church, – often! Even today, the words are embedded in my memory:
“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender, make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit, truly knowing Thou art mine.
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, let Thy blessing fall on me.”
If I close my eyes, I can see my mother playing the piano while singing with the congregation. I can hear the intensity and passion of the parishioners as they swelled the chorus with their voices:
“I surrender all! I surrender all!
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all!”
Jesus’ words to his disciples and the crowd are clear. Those who desire to “come after me,” must accept two things: denial of self, and a willingness to bear a cross. Candidly, I’m not excited about either of those requirements. On the surface, they appear too demanding, restrictive, and inconvenient.
However, according to Jesus, that is the requirement if we are to follow him. Just as repentance (the recognition and sincere regret for the wrong we have done), and belief (faith in Jesus) are essential to salvation (see Mk 1:15; Rom 10:9); self-denial and “cross-bearing” are necessary for the person who desires to follow Jesus.
Without a willingness to relinquish control of my will, and surrender and obey his purpose, I
frequently find myself in conflict with Christ’s objectives. Self-denial and cross-bearing are always connected at the hip! Relinquishing my misguided desires is certain to place a “cross” in my lap!
In full disclosure, I admit: it’s much easier to sing the song than live it. I think one of the reasons is how I’m still tempted to misunderstand what is meant to deny myself. Self-denial does not require me to give up my personality.
In a recent conversation with a marketing person, we were brainstorming ideas of how to promote my book: HOPE FOR THE JOURNEY:
Reflections of God’s Faithfulness. I recognized early in our discussion, that if I were more outgoing, charismatic, boisterous, and willing to confine myself to a narrow audience, the marketing process would be much easier for my friend.
There is value for me to learn how to deny my fear of rejection, and my hesitation to inappropriately promote myself. However, to compromise my personality is not (I believe), the intention of Jesus. Self-denial is not an invitation to martyrdom or asceticism (abstaining from the satisfaction of bodily or social needs).
In Roman-occupied Palestine, a condemned criminal was required to carry his cross through the city as a demonstration of his submission to Rome. “To take up one’s cross is to demonstrate publicly one’s [acceptance] and obedience to the authority against which he had previously rebelled.” 
To willingly take up my cross is saying, “yes” to God’s will and way. By his example, Jesus willingly submits to God’s will. He releases his hold on self-claims to accept God’s claims. For Jesus, (and for us) self-denial leads to cross-bearing. For Jesus, his cross was one of great suffering and death.
Jesus’ words to those who choose to follow him are honest. He makes it clear that when God’s desires are different than ours, self-denial is required. He also reminds us that each of us will have a cross to bear. However, it’s our cross, not His. It’s my cross, not yours.
Cross-bearing is more than just stoically getting through the hard times of life. It is about obeying God’s will revealed in His Word, and willingly accepting the consequences for the sake of the gospel of Jesus – whether comfortable or not.
The verb form of “follow me [Jesus]” is a present imperative. In other words: self-denial and cross-bearing are not one-time decisions. It’s a lifetime process.
If I’m honest, my desire to surrender all is maybe 70-percent of the time. Lord, help me surrender all!
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 8:34.
 Logos Hymnal, 1st edition. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995).
 John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 141.
● On a scale of 1 to 10, where am I on the surrender meter?
● What cross am I asked to bear? Am I willing to carry it?
● Where – and how – is God inviting me to trust Him