August 16, 2021
Our natural inclination is always toward ourselves. Self-promotion, self-comfort, self-fulfillment, and self-recognition. A merely humanistic agenda can easily consume us. Many never escape this broad path, vainly believing it will yield the life they've always wanted.
But if a man wants the most substantive life he must die to this approach. Here's how Jesus described it in twenty words.
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23)
"If any wishes to come after Me, he must deny Himself."
This is not cruel self-denial. It is not denying that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, or gifted, or talented. God has planned to use all of this. It is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less, as C.S. Lewis said.
It is to be so consumed with the One you are following that you are not concerned with yourself. It is the "freedom of self-forgetfulness," as Tim Keller writes, so that your fleshly, humanistic desires are lost in a glorious pre-occupation with Christ.
But do not mistake this: it is not easy. Like a baby's relentless cry in the night, our flesh cries unceasingly for attention. The world clamors loudly, and our great Enemy whispers his directives in our ears with no intermission. These voices must be consciously resisted, and a turn must be made to pursue the Pearl of great price. To follow the One of greatest value.
Where do you need to be so enamored with Christ that you find yourself and your desires denied, and His will exalted and followed?
"If any wishes to come after Me … He must take up his cross daily."
The cross is not theoretical. As the disciples heard this statement, a shudder ran down their spines, and images of their countrymen on a Roman cross flashed across their minds.
Taking up your cross means a willingness to die. Physically and practically. A desire to take a path that may involve daily physical costs. Rising early if He calls you to meet with Him, turning from other "entertainments" to listen to Him, fasting to quiet the noise from the broad path to hear Him. Sharing the gospel even if it means losing a job, the death of a relationship, or a financial cost.
Most dramatically, it has meant for thousands the loss of their lives as they followed Christ. It is a willingness to do anything He asks, whenever He asks, regardless of how it may cost you physically.
Are you willing to go to the cross today for Christ? To pay the price physically to do whatever it takes to follow Jesus?
"If any wishes to come after Me, (he must) … follow Me."
Following involves direction. To follow Christ implies turning from the path you were walking and moving in lock-step with Him. Think of what this entails today. What if you followed Him all day? Where would you turn from your path to find His?
I recently asked a godly and greatly used 86-year-old man what turn he made in his 70's to maximize his life. What his strategic plan had been. He looked at me incredulously and said, "Well, I just kept following Christ."
What incredible freedom this brings because ...
What turn do you need to make today, away from the broad, normal path, to follow Christ fully?
If you want the highest life, this is what it takes. No exceptions. But the reward is stunning—both in this life and the life to come. "No man is a fool," Jim Elliott said, "who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."
Father, thank You for making life so easy that a child can understand, but hard enough and profound enough that it demands everything. Give me enabling grace today to listen and follow closely. I know this implies death to my normal path, but remind me of the glories of walking with Your Son.
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