'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.'" (Matthew 16:24-25, NIV)
What an impossible task. Deny myself? Really? Does anyone hear what myself is demanding?
And yet, Jesus says it plainly and simply: "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves..." That's a lot to ask, Lord. You see, there are so many many things that want my attention and so many many things that I neeeeeeeeeeed to do! And if I'm going to be honest, I have to be in control. I like being in control. When I'm not in control, everything falls apart. So, really, isn't that asking a little too much? Can't I be Your disciple without denying all of myself?
But it's not a question. It's a command. He doesn't say, "It would be nice if you let some things go and follow Me." or, "Just give Me a little time and money and you can be My disciple. And if you act NOW you can also sit at My right hand in heaven!" He says "DENY YOURSELF." That means I can't be in control. It's not about me.
Denying self means giving up our freedoms. We tend to rationalize that we're pretty decent people who go to church and tithe and occasionally pray for missionaries overseas. But give up my Sunday afternoon football to serve in the soup kitchen? No thanks! That's too much! Give an extra $20 in the offering? That's too much! Do you know how much I have to paint or crochet to earn $20? Stop and ask your widowed neighbor if she needs her lawn mowed today? That's too much! My favorite show is on tonight! Lord, can't I just do those fun Christian things that bring attention to me? The fear of what we have to give up to follow Jesus is a ploy the enemy only has to whisper in our ear. He has our attention already.
But Jesus lovingly knows that denying ourselves is the opposite of our nature, and He came so that we might have LIFE and have it to the full!
[this devotional is from Tracy at olsentrademarkcrafts]