It came in the words of Jesus, not to married people but to disciples: “If any come come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” A great and profound word.
It is not about me, my enjoyment, my rights, my issues. If I am criticized, I am not going to take up an offense. I don’t deny myself things, I deny myself. Jesus said in effect, “Go ahead; lose your life. Then you will find it.”
To deny yourself is to deny the part of you that has never been your friend and never brought you lasting hope. It is to deny the part of you with an appetite for self-indulgence and self-protection.
- I choose to respond rather than react. I deny myself the right to be right.
- I choose to deny myself instead of thinking that I owe it to myself. I am not a victim, and others do not owe me anything, but I owe God everything.
- I choose to take the low road of humility rather than the high road of pride. I deny myself the right to be the center of attention, and I will be quick to forgive.
- I choose delayed gratification rather than instant pleasure. The Holy Spirit will produce joy in my life if I do not set joy as a personal right.
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS.
When Jesus talks about crosses, they are not jewelry; they are instruments of death. There is no greater freedom than the freedom of death. Dying is how maturing Christians live.
- I take up my cross by choosing to accept pain now, knowing it will bring pleasure later.
- I take up my cross by not interpreting pain as the absence of God. I will often sense His presence more strongly when I suffer. I will not be surprised when I go through trials.
- I take up my cross by learning to die daily to selfish emotions that want to be understood more than understanding, that want to be heard more than hearing.
To follow Jesus is literal. It is not to ask, “What would Jesus do?” but “What is Jesus doing?” To follow Jesus means to focus on Him, to obey Him, and to be led by Him. To follow Jesus is to turn from following empty dreams and illusionary passions.
- I follow Jesus by choosing to love righteousness and hate wickedness rather than to be fascinated by sin.
- I follow Jesus by living for others. I choose to ask others how they are rather than expecting them to ask me.
- I follow Jesus by overcoming evil with good rather than returning evil with evil.
- I follow Jesus by choosing to love when it is not returned and by forgiving when people are not ready to confess.
- I follow Jesus by finding my identity in the Father’s love as He did. I do not need the affirmation of others to establish my identity.
- I follow Jesus by acknowledging that the kingdom of God is not in full operation until Jesus returns as King of the earth. I am not surprised by tension, by unrealized expectations. I pray for healing, expecting it to break through, but I will not become disillusioned as I wait for it to happen. I trust God, even when it looks like He is not answering.
- I follow Jesus by maintaining an attitude of thankfulness in the midst of difficulty. I will not allow myself the right to complain as if I deserve better.