Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Deny Yourself

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would
come after me, he must deny himself and take up
his cross and follow me."
Matthew 16:24

I thought I knew what that verse meant. "take up his cross and follow me" How can I follow Christ? Sanctification comes to mind, following Christ's example. It has a big meaning, especially if you're reminded Christ's life. Christ was perfect, in every way yet we crucified Him. He suffered to save us from a fate we deserve. How can we not follow Him? It seemed a more-than-sufficient meaning for me. But now, I feel I know dimension to this verse....

"Take up the cross, and follow Christ, Cathy. Deny yourself fully and just focus on God."

That's what my friend told me after a 2 hour long conversation at 11:30 pm. I'm going through a trial right now. I don't really want to go through specifics at the moment, especially since anyone can read this. But society tells me to do one thing. It's totally normal, it's what everyone goes through. But Christ tells me not to. Christ challenges me to be different, go against what society calls 'normal'. Most of all, Christ is calling me to deny myself; deny what I believe is right, deny what my emotions tell me, deny what society would urge me to do, deny what everyone else is doing.

It's hard. I'm not going to lie. I had no motivation to put aside my emotions or my original intentions. But during the conversation, God talked to my friend and me. I was reminded a lot of reasons of what a Christian life should be. I thought I lead a Christian life but I realized that if I didn't choose God in this trial, how could I ever face God? How could I continue with this problem if I knew the right path was God but yet I choose society's path? I was reminded that God needs to continually be the focus in my life, not just when I feel its convenient for me or when I feel like it. I want my passion to be God. I want to continue to seek God and be pleasing to Him.

With that said, how can I not follow Him? With God as my strength, how can I fail? It seems as simple as that. But alas, it isn't. I always tend to go back to square one. "I would be so easy if I just gave in to my emotions, society.... God will lead me from there." But if I know what I want to do isn't pleasing to God then why would I do it? Satan whispers to me constantly. I hear him, I feel him. But I need to constantly remind myself of God's infinite love, mercy, and grace. I need to remind myself that yes, this is hard. Denying myself, taking the cross, it's hard sometimes. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” [1 Corinthians 10:13] God put this trial in my life. Satan tempts me yet I know I can endure. It's going to be hard.... But God is my strength, He is my passion, and that's what I need to focus on.


hanster said...

Cool to see God give you insight into scripture through your experiences. Reminds me of this one part of a book I read on discipleship:

Take up your cross. Many people use it to refer to enduring an illness or disability, a negative experience or bothersome relationship: "This is the cross I must bear." But Jesus' words mean much more. Jesus' statement must have sounded repugnant to the crowd and the disciples alike. The phrase would evoke the picture of a criminal forced to carry a cross beam upon which he was to be publicly executed.
A criminal picked up his cross only after receiving the death sentence. When a criminal carried his cross through the streets, for all practical purposes he was a dead man. His life had ended. A man on his way to public crucifixion "was compelled to abandon all earthly hopes and ambitions." Jesus calls his followers to think of ourselves as already dead, to bury all our earthly hopes and dreams, to bury the plans and agendas we made for ourselves. He will either resurrect our dreams or replace them with dreams and plans of his own.
This is a hard saying, but a liberating saying as well. Human bondage in all its forms is the result of being our own gods. Freedom comes when we lay down the ill-gotten, false crown, when we say no, when we live as though the gods who are us have already died.

Jen said...

this reminds me of this verse:

do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed through the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- is good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

hanster said...

in ESV:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.