Living by the Word of God... Not by our own desires
2 Timothy 3:1-5 & 12-17
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Denying ourselves and taking up our cross isn't a little side issue - it is absolutely necessary to becoming or continuing to be a disciple of Jesus. If we don't practice self-denial, we aren't His disciples. It's useless to try to follow the One who was crucified without taking up our own cross daily. Unless we deny ourselves, it will be impossible not to deny the Lord.
But so many who have written about self-denial (some of them large volumes) don't seem to have an understanding of the subject. Either they couldn't explain it to others, or they didn't know how far to take it, or they didn't sense the absolute necessity of it. Others speak of it in such a dark, mystical way, that the average man can't understand what it's supposed to mean.
Still others speak very clearly on the necessity of self-denial, but they never get down to any specifics about what to do. And if some of them do get specific, they only talk about those things that hardly affect anyone, since they almost never occur in common life. They speak of things like enduring imprisonment or tortures, giving up houses or lands, husbands or wives, children, or even life itself. But most of us aren't likely to be called to endure things like these for the Gospel, unless God permits times of public persecution to return.
Taking up our cross doesn't mean literally tearing our own flesh, wearing uncomfortable clothes, purposely exposing ourselves to extreme heat or cold, or anything else that would hurt our bodily health. It means embracing the will of God, even though it may be totally different from what we want. It means choosing the good, though it may be bitter medicine. It means freely accepting hardships, trials, and temporary pain of whatever kind, as we walk on the path of eternal life.