(Part two is here)
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
I believe this is one of the hardest commands of Jesus. To deny yourself daily.
I don’t see a lot of people denying themselves these days. Mostly I see people indulging themselves. I learned recently that somewhere near 80% of people that drive a ‘luxury car’ can’t really afford it, so it seems there are a lot of people indulging themselves on credit!
But this isn’t really about money (not this time, there’s plenty about money on this blog already) this is about self-sacrifice.
There is a strong scriptural principal, not only from this verse in Luke, but beginning right back in the Law.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going all legalistic and saying we need to start following the law again, but Jesus draws principals of life through as he lived fulfilling the law. Leviticus talks about ‘denying yourself’ for the Sabbath and for other holy days (for example Leviticus 16:29, 16:31, 23:27, 23:32) and the root Hebrew word `anah, genuinely refers to being humbled or humbling yourself, bowing down or being humiliated and weakening oneself.
What better example can we have of bowing down, being humbled, humiliated and weakened than Christ himself?
I believe that what Jesus is saying in Luke 9 (and Matthew 16:24 & Mark 8:34 as parallel records) is firstly that we should spend time daily (only Luke has the word daily, but it is a useful discipline or practice.) working out what is worth going without so that we can grow closer to God and fulfil the potential he has placed in us. And secondly, maybe more importantly, taking time to discover how we can be humbled and weakened so God’s power and grace can be more perfectly shown in our lives.
2 Corinthians 1:5
We share in the terrible sufferings of Christ, but also in the wonderful comfort he gives.
How many of us can genuinely say that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ? We all seem to be fairly good at sharing the “wonderful comfort he gives”, yet shy away from denying ourselves some of the material comforts that we in the West have grown fat upon.
At what stage are we going to embrace a level of self-sacrifice that begins to bite at our comfort? When are we as individuals, as a community and western Christianity as a whole, going to open ourselves up, humble ourselves, allow ourselves to be humiliated for the sake of Christ, openly display our weakness so that God can display his glory and grace?
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
If we fail to practice humility and self sacrifice, unfortunately, we can end up in the same position as the Israelites of Isaiah’s day or the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.
You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
So is it about money? Yes, and it’s also about time, possessions, thoughts, habits, books we read and TV / films we watch, conversations we have, the things we fill our heads with, the houses and locations we choose to live in, the cars we drive, holidays we take, gadgets we buy. It’s about joining up what Jesus teaches with every-day life.
What do you need to deny yourself today and tomorrow and maybe the rest of the week, month or year?
Maybe you need to develop a practice, a spiritual discipline of denying yourself a certain thing (or things) to grow good habits that develop your relationship with God?
p.s. I always said I wasn’t going to write about me personally because this blog is a parking space for ideas in development and I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about giving glory to God. However, I will write a follow-up post to Sacrifice part 3 because I believe that I shouldn’t be writing what I’ve written if I’m not prepared to practice it and I should probably show some kind of example in my life of what I mean. Stay tuned!