Mark 8:34-37 “And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Death is spoken of frequently in the Bible and the meaning of death in the Bible is symbolic and representative.
1 John 2:15-17 “Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
The “world” spoken of in 1 John is also symbolic, it represents man’s pride as well as his longing [with distress] after things due to his physical and mental/emotional needs. And it says the world (i.e. ego pride and distressful needs) can “pass away”. But how does the “world” described here in 1 John 2 pass away or go away?
Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, [which is] your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
When man proves what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God, the world of pride (ego mind) and lust (pain and suffering due to “lack”) will pass away. Man has pride and needs things in this physical world, but it says when man becomes a “living” sacrifice to God his world that is controlled by these things will no longer be - in control. There is a symbolic “death” that man can go through that changes his world. It says if man wants to change the world, he only needs to change himself. And by changing himself man proves the “good” will of God. And remember what it says about proving and doing the will of God:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
The will of God for man is that he be thankful for everything, and this means even in the difficult things of life. In fact, it means especially in the difficult things.
Hebrews 10:36 “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”
Man “proves” the good and perfect will of God when he learns what being thankful in everything really means.
Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
Phil 4:6 says man should not to worry about anything; but be thankful through it all. Not worrying and always being thankful go hand in hand. But what does not worrying and being thankful have to do with man taking up his cross or becoming a “living sacrifice” to God? And what does “being careful for nothing” have to do with man denying himself and losing his life in order to gain his soul. Or what does it mean to “take up his cross” and follow “Christ” instead of his own mind”? Remember “Christ” represents a transformation caused by the “renewing of the mind” (i.e. Rom 12:2). Christ is a type of anointing of the mind, which causes a change of heart in man.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
The strength of God is made perfect through man’s weaknesses. The power of God (Christ) comes to man when man learns to take pleasure in distresses, or in other words “in everything give thanks”, because that is when man finds his true strength.
And when man takes up his cross, it means he lays downs all his other mental burdens. When man becomes a living sacrifice he lets his worries die. When man “gives his life to God” he becomes thankful for his infirmities because he knows he is gaining the wisdom and power of God through it all. The death of man’s cares brings about the saving of his soul. When man denies himself, he is simply denying his old worrisome thoughts and ways. But it takes effort to pick up a cross, which is a change of mind and way of thinking. It is a continual effort.
Hebrews 13:15 “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of [our] lips giving thanks to his name.”
Psalm 116:17 “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.”
Offering thanks instead of worry, offering thanks instead of complaining, and offering thanks to God continually is only possible with a transformation of the mind (Rom 12:2), and it is indeed a “sacrifice of praise” because man has to first give up [or sacrifice] all his other thoughts of lack, worry, distress, and victimhood in order to be truly thankful in everything.
When man allows his mind to move from “distress of need” to “thankfulness in everything”; his worries pass away, his longing desires for what he does not have cease, his constant complaining changes to constant gratitude in everything, and then man will indeed be taking up his cross and allowing his “old man” to die.
It is a symbolic representation of the cross man can bear.