For the last few days, it seems that my Bible study time and my devotional time have been drawing my attention to a common theme: the denial of Self!
Back a few weeks ago, I began in earnest to seek God’s wisdom concerning the difficulties I was facing. It’s beginning to dawn upon me that my perspective toward those difficulties are skewed towards self. My inner thoughts reflected the struggle within of who I was going to please, my old Self (the person I was before Christ) or my new Self (the person I was after accepting Christ). The following verse was highlighted in both my study and devotional time.
Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. Matthew 16:24-25
We all endure hard times. There’s no escaping them. But God has a plan regarding those hard times! So does Satan! But allow me to preface this claim by saying, “If you don’t believe in the existence of God and Satan, you will drown in a sea of uncertainty. Life and the hard times that go along with it, will serve no purpose. The only certain claim is that we will ALL face death someday! What then?”
Recently my mother in law broke free of the bonds that tied her to this earth. She had lived a good life, full of the joys of serving God. However, she endured trying times, far more than most. Yet, she would be the first to say she had a joyful life. So what was joyful about her very difficult life? Way back toward the early part of her life, when it was likely at it hardest, she claimed the promise of God on how to save her life! She learned the secret of what it meant to take up her cross daily and follow Christ.
So what does it mean to take up our cross daily?
After we give our life to Christ, it is His life, by the power of His spirit that takes up residence in our being. But the conflict is that our new spirit, (given to us at salvation, who seeks to please Christ) must share space with our old spirit (given to us at birth, who seeks to please Self). The clash between the two is real. Therefore it is imperative that we have a solid grasp of the truth of the following verse:
15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:15 NLT
That is the crux of the matter. It’s all about choosing who to please: God or Self. Until we are willing to receive the new life ruled by Christ in exchange for the old life ruled by Self, we can’t really understand the point Matthew 16:24-25 is making. How do we save our lives by loosing our lives?
It’s quite simple actually. If we can’t turn loose of the life that Self dictates, (you know, doing what we want to do even if it requires being disobedient to God and all the turmoil that goes along with such a choice) then we will not be able to experience the life Christ died to give us. (You know, a life that is reflected in Philippines 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.)
Therefore, we can choose to allow Christ to guide our choices. The outcome of such a choice is a life built on a strong foundation.
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:24-26
Or we can choose to allow Self to dictate our choices. The outcome of such a choice is a life built on a weak and unstable foundation.
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:26-27
What does our foundation look like? Have we been seeking to please Self or have we been seeking to please God? The question is answered by the perspective we assume when making our daily choices.