If Jesus provided a blood sacrifice that can potentially save us from terrible suffering, why does he emphasize the need to carry our cross as we follow Him on the path to His kingdom? I don’t think anything can be clearer than Matthew 10:38 - And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. To me, this nullifies any salvation that His blood sacrifice may provide to believers who do not carry their cross.
I interpret carrying the cross to mean ignoring our own selfish desires and concentrating on serving others. I think Jesus was telling us that the more we are able to lose sight of the physical world as we know it, the more we will become aware of the kingdom of heaven which is and has always been around us. Loving our neighbor opens our eyes and our hearts to heavenly experiences that far surpass the pleasures of the material world. The kingdom of heaven is within us, but we only become aware of that kingdom as our focus shifts away from our selves, i.e. as we die to gain eternal life.