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Friday, October 14, 2016

Denying Self

 Before we continue on and begin to look at some of the ways our lives will start to change on the outer side of the door, I think it necessary to expound on something I briefly touched upon earlier. Since this concept is foundational to future growth, some greater detail will be important. Let's go back and look again at Luke 9:23-24:

"Then he [Jesus] said to them all: If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
his life for me will save it."

It's been said many times that freedom comes at a high cost. There must be sacrifice in order to obtain anything valuable. Before we can fully embrace God as our complete and total everything, we must give up those things that we once took satisfaction and pleasure in to fail a life that's really worth pursuing. As Christian missionary martyr Jim Elliot once famously said, 

"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep 
to gain that which he cannot lose."

 Stepping into a life of grace and blessing requires a denial of sin and self. Your love for what God offers must be greater than your desire for the pursuit of the things your formerly chased. Following Christ takes risk. The journey with God, the life outside of the door, doesn't promise you and easy ride - suffering still happens, pain and grief still happen...because life happens. Walking with the Master doesn't eliminate the results of living in a broken world, but it does give you peace and joy within it (John 16:33). Upon exiting the darkness, there is a new uncertainty to be had, but it is now wrapped in expectation and not fear. 
 Denying yourself and taking up your cross daily means that you are willing to engage in the war against your own plans, ambitions, and wants because you desire what God wants even more. Denying ourselves involves a turning over of those areas of our lives that have become idols to us - it could be money, it could be fame, it could be material possessions. Even good things like family, friends, and community involvement can become so important to us that God sort of gets left out. Or maybe He was never part of those things in the first place. Denying ourselves means that we welcome Christ into every part of us and are willing to become His servants, to take lower position, in order to obey and follow His plans. Sometimes this necessitates inviting Him into some very painful chapters of our lives. And yet, we do it because we see the unprofitable benefits of holding onto them any longer. 
 Following Jesus takes complete and total commitment. He promised that if we try to merely add Him into the life we already have, we'll still be on the losing end, but if we relinquish our rights - our rights to make our own choices, our rights to the answers to things in life that don't make sense, our rights to be in control of our own futures, our rights to decide what is truth and what isn't, our rights to...well...everything - He said that, in reality, we will gain life. The Gospel call is not simply for one initial act of receiving Christ into one's life - it is a daily reminder that one does not belong to themselves anymore. Upon opening the door, we are releasing ourselves. In a sense, signing our lives away to be controlled by another Master. 
 Until we understand what it means to lay down our will at the feet of the King of Kings and resign our lives to His rule, we may let God come into the room and have a look, but we will want to be a step ahead saying, 

"Never mind the mess...oh, don't look at this; I'll take care of that. Uh...Lord, excuse this over here...that's my next thing to deal with, etc."

Opening the door means full surrender. It means letting God come in and stepping aside. It means getting out of the way.