Thursday, September 7, 2006

"Deny yourself..."

From today's "Gateway to Joy" by Elisabeth Elliot...

An important sign of maturity is the acceptance of responsibility. One quits depending on everybody else and acknowledges that certain duties are his alone. If he doesn't do them, nobody will. Every day there is, for example, a "cross" to take up. Who else is going to carry it? It is mine. It lies in my pathway, and unless I accept it--and accept it gladly for Christ--I simply am not following Him. He has made it perfectly clear that there are two prerequisites to following, that is, to being his disciple: denying oneself, and taking up one's cross. To know yourself is to know your cross. Francois Mauriac says, "to flee one's sorrow and evade and ignore one's cross is the whole occupation of the world; but that occupation is at the same time a fleeing from one's own self"--or, we may say, from our proper and assigned responsibility. We may not always see a particular task laid before us, but one thing is sure: to trust Him is a task, proper to every Christian, assigned to us every minute of every hour of every day, and to flee this task is worldly, irresponsible, and immature.
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? (Ps 27:1 AV).

I will trust, and not be afraid (Is 12:2 AV).

I will trust and take up my cross.
I will trust and deny myself.

On the surface it may seem that trusting has very little to do with taking up a cross and denying one's self. But it doesn't take much meditation and thought to realize that it has everything to do with trust. Self-preservation, desire for ease, cravings for comfort, self-reliance, self-indulgence, fear of suffering, loss, pain, embarrassment...all of these are reasons to leave our cross where it lay and fail to deny ourselves. We need to maintain the status quo or protect something we feel is rightfully we forsake our cross and indulge in arranging and controlling and vain imaginations and manipulation and justify disobedience. We are sad or scared or anxious and need we forsake our cross and grant ourselves food or comiseration or guilty-pleasure TV or reading material or justify gossip and idle talk. We just need to do it fix it make it happen make it right change it accomplish it all on our we forsake our cross and indulge our pride and justify our sin and absence of faith. We fear imagined pain, difficult consequences, the severing of a relationship, losing face in front of someone, appearing we forsake our cross and indulge our disbelief and emotions and justify selfish prayers and lack of wisdom.

I could go on.

For every we I could put an *I*...but I think I am not alone in this. I/We are not good at denying ourselves anything. What we want we seek after and pursue and do some pretty impressive mental, emotional, spiritual and physical gymnastics to get it...not to mention concocting twisted theological dissertations in our heads to make it all ok.

But Jesus says that without self-denial we can not be His disciples. If it is not our habit to deny ourselves and submit our emotions, our thoughts, our habits and our actions to Christ on a daily, hourly and minute-by-minute basis we are not truly His...we are ours.

You cannot serve God and mammon and you cannot serve God and self.

When we fail to deny ourselves we are essentially saying that we can give ourselves something better than God can or has. We are saying we don't trust Him.

I don't know about you, but when the Lord first spoke that to my heart this morning I was overcome with how ugly that is. I choked on it and tears were instantly in my eyes. As well it should have. It is ugly ... and it is a lie. A lie that I didn't even know I believed, and would never have thought consciously, but fall for time and time again. Indulgence is a trap and a snare set by the evil one to keep us from doing that which makes us the Lord's and keeps the enemy at bay. When we resist, deny, and twart the trap, the enemy has to flee. That is the promise. But each time we indulge we keep that door wide open for him to come in again and again and again.

But we do something far worse than subjecting ourselves to repeated and successful attacks...we forsake His cross, the fellowship of His suffering, the sharing in offering one's self up for another, in knowing what it truly means to be His disciple.

O Lord, make us more willing to deny ourselves that we might truly follow you, know you and be wholly yours...for your glory and your name's sake...amen!

1 comment:

  1. Ouch! I definitely saw myself in this post. Self-denial is not something we value in our society, is it?