“Then Jesus said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23
Self-denial. This is what Christ demands. And more importantly, it is what He deserves. Jesus isn’t asking His followers to hate themselves; he is asking them to adore Him. Just as the old hymn says:
“Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.”
The choice to deny self is born out of adoration and gratitude, not obligation. It is the response of a heart that is ever-conscience of Christ’s sacrifice, and always thankful for His grace.
To deny yourself means to disregard your own interests for the sake of Christ and His glory. Following Jesus is not easy. There are times when He leads us to places that we do not want to go. He leads to places that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and even undesirable. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Loving our enemies is not comfortable. Forgiveness is not always easy. Putting others needs ahead of our own desires is tough. All of these are examples of how Jesus asks us to deny ourselves.
But, when we hold these acts of self-denial up to the cross…they don’t seem so hard, do they? When we choose to consider Christ’s sacrifice, we realize that He has the right to ask for whatever He desires from our lives. After all, we wouldn’t even have life if it weren’t for Him…physically or spiritually.
And as if what He has already given us isn’t enough, He continues to lavish His grace upon us. Whatever He asks us to give up He will replace with His abundant life. What we find is that the more we sacrifice, the more He gives. In God’s kingdom, death to self is the only way to truly live.
Dear Lord, I want to obey you from a heart full of gratitude, not out of a sense of obligation. Help me to remember to be grateful and thankful each day for all you've done for me, and to live my life in obedience as an overflow of that thankfulness. In Jesus' name, amen.