For the first half of this discussion, go here.
Christ said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 (also in Mark 8 and Luke 9)
This morning I wanted to write about the denying yourself part. I have been wondering for a while what exactly that looks like. I feel like the Lord has been calling me to self denial, and I, in total ignorance of what that really means, flippantly have said "sure, Lord! Sounds good." I mean I really do WANT to be a serious, hardcore, sold out disciple of Him. I don't see the point in sort of walking around with this faith and not really experiencing the abundant life promised me. It has been my desire for a long time to be extreme for Jesus! But what does that denying oneself have to do with my day to day?
I asked this question on facebook (Do you deny yourself) and I got some fantastic responses. All about putting other's needs first, serving one another, things like that. And although I wholeheartedly believe that that is a part of this denying concept, I think that keeping my self-denial to serving my family is missing one of the other vital and rewarding parts.
I also have delved into the notion that denying myself means that I deny myself some wants/desires as a life habit. I realized that I was living my life satisfying almost all of my immediate desires. Thank God none of those desires were for anything sinful in themselves (wasn't desiring to look at porn or anything) but I wasn't exercising self discipline. I wanted that flavored coffee creamer, so I bought it. I wanted to try that new kind of cracker so I bought it. I didn't want to eat what was on the menu that night, so I changed it! I thought such and such toy would be fun for the kids so I got it for them. I was spoiling myself and my children and leading them to believe that if you want it, that is reason enough to have it. (SIDE BAR: Not being able to afford something did keep me from buying or getting things to a certain extent. I wasn't a spend-aholic or anything, just spoiled) So, when I realized this about myself, I stopped! I realized that practicing self-denial in this way is an excellent practice in self discipline. That my wants of each moment are not priority and don't have to be satisfied in the immediate. That to truly trust the Lord with what I have and need, I should not take it upon myself to instantly gratify each whim. Or each whim of my children. It was a great practice, but again, after all of that, I realized that this is only another aspect of this greater concept of self-denial. Something grander is still missing. (This goes into another life lesson of contentment, which I am going to blog about soon!)
So here we are to the now. What is left? How can I deny myself, that first step in being a true follower (disciple) of Jesus?
When Christ was giving instructions to His disciples and said what he said about what you must do to follow him, he was stating something obvious that I had missed until now. When He said "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." What did Christ Himself do? He denied Himself. What??? He is the Creator of the Universe with skin on! Then, He took up His cross. We all know what that is referring to. He was stating (and I feel foolish for not seeing it in exactly these terms before) that in order to be a disciple of Christ, we must do what He did.
To continue the discussion, go to Discipleship Part 3