Sometimes I think Satan’s greatest opportunity to defeat us is on the brink of our success in turning something over to God. We can be so vulnerable when we relinquish control in an area of our life to God. We are vulnerable because we so easily fool ourselves into thinking we have given ourselves completely to God.
Did you know that God wants more than just the parts of our life that we deem to be most important? He wants us to go all in. That is what Luke 9:23 is saying. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” That is such a loaded statement. It makes us uncomfortable when we read it. We do not like needing to put everything on the table. It is like putting all your chips in during a poker game. You put everything on the line over one single hand. You feel like you are going into it almost blind.
Some of us try and follow this verse, but misunderstand its command. We take the part “deny himself” and take it to mean to deny specific urges of our flesh. Perhaps we take it to mean we must refrain from looking at pornography, have sex, eat like a glutton, gossip, or lash out in anger. If we replace “himself” with any of those things then we have failed in properly applying this passage.
This seems to go against our nature. We believe it is foolish to put all of our eggs in one basket. We are creatures who feel the need to have a backup plan. Christ tells us to put everything in Him though. We are either all in for Him, or not in with him at all. There is no middle ground. Why is this such a big deal? The answer is found in verse 24.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” We cannot save ourselves. We are incapable of changing the outcome. Relying on ourselves is utter stupidity. It all comes down to again remaining completely dependent on God. The question is what keeps us from going all in?
Pride is one thing that keeps us from denying ourselves. We want to believe that we are better than we actually are. We want to believe that there are enough good qualities about us worth keeping. The simple fact is if there is anything good inside of us it is Christ. God is what gives us qualities worth keeping.
Fear is something that can keep us from denying ourselves. We want to be in control. We feel that relinquishing that control sentences us to a life of turmoil and pain. We want to be the masters of our own destiny. We believe we know what is best for us. In the end, all we are saying is that the God who created us is incapable of taking care of us. We are saying that God is weak when we refuse to deny ourselves out of fear.
Sometimes we believe we have already done this as I mentioned in the beginning of the post. We believe we have followed this commandment when we give p specific things in our lives. God calls for us to give everything up though. He does not say to give up specific sins. He calls us to give up everything that we are.
Sometimes we refuse to deny ourselves because we understand all too well what that means. It means we are in for a hard life. If we become completely sold out for Christ then we will face hardships. People will hate us for what we stand up for. We may have to go places that are unsafe. Some of us may even die for our beliefs. That is where the “take up your cross” part comes in. Christ says we are to do this daily. We miss this point. He does not say, “Take up your cross when the opportunity comes up”, or “Take up your cross when it seems it is needed”. When we wake up in the morning we must deny ourselves again to Christ. We need to start the day by saying God is in control, and we will follow through on that even if we are lead down a road that looks treacherous.
This talk of taking up your cross daily sounds intimidating. However, there is another way to look at this that is just as biblically. When Christ says we must take up our cross every day, and deny ourselves, he is also saying for us to start every day by depending completely on him. We can do this because his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Even walking down treacherous roads do not seem as daunting when viewing it that way.
How do you make sure you deny yourself to follow Christ? Share your thoughts in the comments.