“Then he [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.'”–Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)
Denying ourselves in this culture is difficult. So many messages tell us to live for ourselves, we are #1, do what we want, get things our way. Advertising tells us we need this item, or that house, or this car, or that dream vacation, anything that meets our needs and desires…well, we should have it! We deserve it.
Jesus’ words are hard ones to live by. Deny myself? Why would I want to do that? Lose my life… I like it just fine, why would I want to see it disappear? I struggle with these words…
As I listen to people talk about giving up things for Lent, such as Facebook, desserts, or other items, I wonder what will be put in its place. I plan to give up looking at the news. Frankly, I need a sabbath or rest time from the news. I know it gets me worked up, I spend time reading headlines and articles, and I wonder what I will be like in 40 days if I spend time away from it. But I want to make sure I have something to fill that time, something that will bring me closer to God. I am not denying myself of something I enjoy, but I am denying myself of an activity that draws me away from God. I want my energy and emotion to be poured into the things of God, not the things of this world.
Our hearts are often shackled to things that take us away from God. The more we want, the more we acquire, the more we bow to self. Daily, we are bound up in sin and cannot get free. Jesus died for us so that our shackles are removed and we have the freedom to follow him. Without his death, we would still be bound up in our sin. Our lives are found in Him, in the freedom of following him.
We save our lives when we give them up. How will you give up your life for Jesus today?
Prayer–“God of Grace, denying myself and my desires is difficult. I struggle to give up my life to you, so I ask for the wisdom to see the things that take me from you. Provide me with the strength and courage to break free of those things and follow you wholeheartedly. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”