Saturday, April 18, 2009

Step One: Denying Self - a.k.a. "Set a Course for the Cross"

"And he said to them all, If any man will come after (go with) me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23

I'll talk about denial in this post, and if all goes as planned I'll tackle taking up our cross and following Him in subsequent posts.

Jesus would end up resurrected and seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high. That was inevitable for sure, but that was to be the outcome of His obedience; obedience even unto death on the cross.

For His destination, as He stood and wept looking over Jerusalem, knowing that the vast majority of those dwelling in that city would reject Him; as He rode into that same city, presenting Himself as the King of Israel to the joyful shouts of "Hosanna" by many of the same people who would, only five days later, spit at him and blaspheme His Name (as He bore their sins); as He ate His final supper with His disciples, instituting a new covenant and a new meaning for those ancient toasts; as He passed through the Garden of Gethsemane, praying and sweating drops of blood... yes, His destination was most definitely the cross.

He knew, and we know, that Calvary was where it would all end. Though, as ends go, it was most assuredly not the most final of ends. No, not for Him, but for what else died with Him on that cruel tree.


Which brings us to Luke 9:23.

Those of us who desire to go with Him to be where He is are to, 1) deny ourselves, 2) take up our cross daily, and 3) follow Him.

See, from the moment of His conception by the Spirit, and really from eternity past, He was only going one place. And that is where He calls us to go.

To deny ourselves is essentially to place His will and His desires for us above our own will and our own desires. Or, to put it another way, to replace our will and desires with His. This denial begins with our initial repentance as we are born into the Faith and continues until we breath or last. Paul describes this denial well in Romans 12:1-2.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

Just as Jesus presented Himself willingly, denying His will to live, His will to bypass the cross if it was at all possible, we must also willingly present ourselves as a sacrifice for Him who sacrificed Himself for us.

But unlike Christ we are generally called to be living sacrifices. See, He doesn't call us to lay down on the altar and slash our throats, nor does He beckon us to nail ourselves to a cross and die there. He calls us to willingly and daily strap ourselves to the horns of His altar and let His holy fire burn away our iniquity, just as it would with the substitutionary lamb within the old covenant. And as we are well aware, it doesn't feel good.

It doesn't feel good because fire, by its very nature burns. But, fire has another function.

Fire purifies.

And that is where we end today. I pray that today you and I both will deny ourselves, as we allow Him to purify us, however uncomfortable it is. It is not only our reasonable service of worship because it is His will that we do so. It is also for our good, because He cares for us.

"The Cross cannot be defeated for it is defeat."
-G.K. Chesterton
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