teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name... psalm 86:11

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

deny yourself

What do you think of when you hear the words “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”?  It’s a challenge Jesus gave to the early disciples, but this challenge has echoed as the battle cry of Christians for every century since. Its meaning has morphed and changed shape depending on the culture and popular doctrines of the times, but recently I’ve been really challenged by the idea of what this statement would have meant to the disciples who first heard the words uttered from Jesus’ mouth.
Here’s the deal- we have the full picture… we hear this passage and instantly think of Jesus, bloodied and bruised, dragging a heavy wooden beam along the streets that led to the mountain where he eventually hung and died. And we try to attribute how we can do this metaphorically in our lives too. The disciples didn’t yet have this picture, though. In fact, they didn’t even understand the fact that Jesus was to die… for them… even though he said it to their faces time and time again. So again I am praying that in my life the Holy Spirit would open my eyes and my heart to a new and fresh understanding of this call to arms.  Here’s what I’ve been realizing…
One of the expanded definitions of “deny” in the amplified version of this passage is to “lose sight of himself and his own interests.” I love this and hate it at the same time. Love it because it sounds so noble and holy, but hate it because it’s just plain hard to do!  We are selfish creatures and it’s in every fiber of our being to look out for ourselves.  Here’s the deal though- in putting aside your own interests and what YOU think is best for you, you are actually allowing The One who knows you better than you know yourself, who is ABLE to look out for your best interest and provide better than you ever could for yourself, to step in and be in control. So really the most self-seeking thing we could do is step aside and let God take the reins!
The other part of this invitation is to take up our cross. In the disciples’ day not everyone had to bear a cross- it was a severe punishment saved for the worst of criminals.  Needless to say, this wasn’t a warm and fuzzy, kumbaya kind of invitation. If you were bearing a cross it was because you deserved judgment and death.  Except for Jesus.  He bore the cross because of OUR sin.  Part of taking up our cross is daily recognizing our sin and failure and need for grace- that we deserve to bear a cross in the most literal sense.  It’s humiliating and gut-wrenchingly honest.  We don’t like this line of thinking in our world because it’s uncomfortable. We’re taught to be “good enough” and fall into the trap of “well at least I’m not as bad as ____”.  Truth is, we’re all messes… but God has an uncanny way of stepping in and making a beautiful thing from our mess.

May we all be brought to a place of realizing that we DON'T have it all figured out, and that we DON'T have it all under control... but that it's okay. May we be humbled and daily reminded of our need to receive grace... and give grace... and know that this can only happen through pursuing Jesus whole-heartedly.

1 comment:

  1. Wow I love this! It's so true that God takes us sinnful and messy people to bring Him glory and make it a beautiful story through His grace. D, I love you are posting this stuff. :)