“Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.’” - Luke 9:23
The Christian life is one paradox after another. We must lose our life to find it. We must give in order to receive. We must empty in order to be filled. We must die in order to truly live. And, in order to pursue and attain our greatest joy, we must deny ourselves.
Deny ourselves…really? That is perhaps the most unpopular idea imaginable in today’s culture. Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with messages of self-indulgence, ego, and self-importance. Can you imagine turning on the TV and seeing an advertisement beckoning you to deny yourself in order to find joy?
I wonder what it was like for Jesus’ twelve disciples when He spoke these words to them? They must have been on cloud nine up to this point. The promised Messiah was finally there! Peter confessed that Jesus was the promised One and Jesus confirmed it. The long-anticipated Savior had arrived, and these twelve men were at the center of this fulfillment of prophecy. Could there be anything greater for a devout Jew?
But once His deity was established among them, Jesus began to say some odd things. He began to speak about being murdered by His enemies. Then He said He would come back three days later. When Peter tried to correct Jesus, insisting that the Promised One would not die, Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
I am sure Peter, and the other eleven with him, were confused about what death could have to do with victory. How could defeat lead to glory? It just didn’t seem possible. This was not what the Jews had expected from their King. And then Jesus dropped the bombshell: self-denial. “Deny yourselves, take up your cross daily, and follow Me,” Jesus told them. When I imagine this scene I picture crickets chirping right about then. What in the world was Jesus talking about?
To deny self is to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to God. It is humbly submitting my will to God. It is to go through life repeating the words that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He died, “Not My will but Yours be done.” Millions have said the words, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” while reciting the Lord’s Prayer…but do we mean it?
How do we live self-denial? If someone hurts you, the natural reaction is to lash back, to get angry. The path of discipleship is, “not my will but Yours.” It is humbly submitting my will to God’s will, moment-by-moment and day-by-day. This is self-denial…this is the life of a disciple.
Father, Please help me to choose daily to deny myself by submitting my will to Your will. I pray that I will find true joy and satisfaction in You alone.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Topics: Work of Christ