Luke 9:23 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
If you’re like me, you’ve heard this a thousand times. It’s a great verse. But the other day the phrase “let him deny himself” jumped out at me. What does it really mean to do that? What is involved in the process of ‘denying ourselves?’ For starters, we have to figure out what “our self” really is. In other words, what is the default mode of our heart. What is it, when I’m alone by myself and comfortable, do I think about? What am I telling myself? For me, the little voice in my head says “You NEED to_________________, and then God will accept you and love you. But if you don’t, God will be upset, frustrated, angry and turn his back on you in the final judgment” The _____________ can be anything! Read my bible, pray for my parents, raise support, finish my to-do list. Anything. To sum those thoughts up, I am seeking justification through my works. And these thoughts either lead to pride (I’m proud of myself for completing all these tasks) or despair (I’m such a screw up for not doing the right things) Despair is where I fall on the spectrum. So often when I fail to complete these tasks/works I despair and fall into self-pity.
Now for the last year or so I would have told you that this is my struggle. I would have told you that this is an awful, inaccurate, false view of God. and you’re exactly right. And this isn’t anything really ground breaking. I think more people than not could point this out in the lives of others. HOWEVER, the light bulb clicked a couple days ago. WHAT I WANT IN MY OWN LITTLE WORLD IS CONTROL. I WANT TO BE ABLE TO CONTROL MY ENVIRONMENT AND MAKE LIFE EASY FOR MYSELF. What I have done in order to make that possible is to create a god in my that could give me that control that I so desire! This all just and performance-based god could give me what I truly desire. I would have never thought I would WANT a God who is all just and harsh, and expects me to be perfect (as seen in my example earlier).
I would’ve told you you’re crazy because I can’t live up to those standards.
Of course, the problem with this whole thing is I THINK I KNOW WHAT I NEED. I think controlling my own life is the path to life. For those of you who really think that, you have a rude awakening. To make it short and sweet, we are hard-hearted and don’t want the right things (Romans 3:10-18). But we have a God who knows what we need better than we do! In Luke 9:24 Jesus goes onto say “for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
So the most important question then is are you denying yourself? Are seeking to lose your life for Christ’s sake or are you trying to save it for your own sake? Are you using Jesus as a means to your own end? Make no mistake about it – our hearts were meant to want something. God created us to want. And the only thing that will truly satisfy us is Christ and Christ alone.