Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Denying ourselves is denying the right to our own lives and the insistence that we are right. It means we must choose to see others through His eyes, not ours, even when we want desperately to listen to our own voice. Deny ourselves, He said. We aren’t God. And it means becoming vulnerable enough to self-examine or even let trusted others examine us so that they can reveal the log in our own eyes to us. We are, after all, inherently blind. We must be humble if we want to be a disciple.
How real and how important is Jesus to us? This issue will reveal the answer. Are we talking but not walking? It has to hurt if we are walking. If we are NOT faced with painful acts of denying ourselves, then we need to ask how real our faith is. God tends to cause deep, deep growing pains. There is never a time in our lives that we won’t be feeling some growing pains if we are denying ourselves. We will never be Jesus.
And He is much like the sun. The closer we get to Him, the bigger He looks and the smaller we look to ourselves. Humility brings peace and contentment and joy. His revelation of our faults makes us feel grateful, not shamed. It brings freedom, not condemnation. If we see ourselves through God’s eyes, we will never be quick to judge another human being. We will be so humbled by our own deprivation in the face of His love and acceptance.
Yet, so often we have decided that we are the director of everyone else’s play and if they don’t act on that stage according how we think they should, they are wrong. And we need to reveal it to them. It is our obligation. Pride wrapped in false humility is epidemic.
Think about this. When did we become God? When did we decide that we are the one who has the right to make decisions for other’s lives? Even if they are doing something we know for sure is against God, they still have the right to make their own decisions. We can warn, we can speak truth, but we must honor their right to the choice. (The hardest thing is the world is to watch people making choices you know will cause deep, deep pain but we must release any right to those decisions or responsibility for them.) Isn’t that the most prideful place to be? And the most invasive place we tend to do this is in committed relationships. Sometimes we think that because we are committed, we have rights that we certainly do not. Be careful to honor God’s design and that is free will.
Remember folks- we do not, ever, ever own the rights to another human being! We don’t have the right to make someone else’s decisions for themselves. We don’t have the right to their lives. We can make our choices for ourselves based on their decisions, absolutely. But we cannot ever assume that we have the right to their obedience- unless they are our children, supported by us. And even that- we had better make sure that we give them plenty of training in owning responsibility for their choices.
The stage belongs to God, not us, folks. All of us either choose to do as He instructs or we choose to tell Him to move out of the director’s chair because there’s not room for Him while we are sitting in it.
What does this mean? At any given time, with any given decision, we need to seek His face and o-b-e-y. If we only obey when it fits with what we want, then we don’t know what a relationship with Christ is about. Believe me, He will definitely put us smack dab in a situation where we must choose His will and His way and completely deny what we want, even want desperately, even want when what we want seems good! Oh yes He will. Be ready!
He is God. We are not. We either surrender and obey or we ignore, deny or become indifferent to His promptings.
Takeaway: It’s no joke that Jesus said we must deny ourselves. If we aren’t hurting over denying ourselves, then we don’t get it. We have to expect to be crushed by choosing obedience over what we want. Obedience leads to blessing. Please be willing to be broken in order to trust God’s blessing.
Prayer: Dear God, please humble me. Please lead me into a desire to obey you over any other desire in my life. Please break me of being “director” of anyone’s life but my own. I am willing to deny myself- what I want, what I do, where I go, where I stay, everything- in order to follow you. You are what I want more than anything else in life. Amen.