Being the strong-willed person I am, God is forever working on me to submit my will to His. It is a daily struggle. Some days I do great and other days I struggle to die to self. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of meditation on Luke 9:23.
Then He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.”
First, I look at the “deny” myself. Every day I need to deny myself whatever it is in life that keeps me from doing God’s Will and as Matthew Kelly says, “being the best version of myself”. This is hard for me. I have a tendency to just do, then think about it later.
I’m talking about small things, like should I stop by McDonald’s today and get a sausage biscuit and large diet coke. It is only $2.97. I can afford it. But the questions I should be asking is: Is this the best thing for me? Are there healthier things I could eat and drink for breakfast instead? Could I save that $2.97 and give it to the church or a charity instead? There are cookies in the breakroom. Many times I’ll just grab and eat before even thinking about whether I should. Am I really hungry? Could I do without? You are at home watching TV and playing a game on your computer or other device. Is it best to be doing this or could I turn the TV off and spend time in God’s Word, reading a good Christian novel or book, or just praying?
We are faced with a lot of small decisions everyday. Do we stop to include God in those decisions and ask ourselves questions about whether this decision is best for us in our spiritual walk? I know I struggle with this but with God’s help I hope to get better every day.
Carry My Cross Daily
What does it mean to take up our cross daily? In Jesus’ day, the main method for the death penalty was nailing criminals to a cross. The criminal had to carry the wooden cross to the place where they would be put to death. Jesus was talking about death – dying to self. The disciple’s cross demands death to self-seeking, self-will, self-interest. As our Lord set aside His Glory and His prerogatives to come to earth and carry his cross to die for our sins, we are to put our self-interests aside, carry our cross, and die to self.
As most of us know, this is a very hard thing to do each day. However, I have come to believe that the more we deny ourselves, the easier it becomes to die to self-seeking, self-will, and self-interest.
A Great Example
A beautiful picture of this from the Old Testament is in Genesis 22 where we are told about the testing of Abraham regarding his son Isaac. The chapter opens up with “Some time later God tested Abraham”. God has asked that Abraham take Isaac (his only begotten son) up to Mt. Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. When this account is displayed in pictures or movies, they tend to depict Isaac as a small child, but in reality Isaac was much older. According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, Isaac was about 25 years old.
Verse 6 says, Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.
On the way to the place for the sacrifice, Isaac speaks up and says “I see the wood and the fire, but where is lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham tells him that God will provide the lamb. It seems obvious that Isaac is putting two and two together and that his father plans to sacrifice him; yet he continues to carry the wood. He could have run away but he didn’t. They arrive at the place God told Abraham to go to, they build the altar and Isaac allows his father to tie him up and lay him on the wood. With the age and strength difference surely Isaac could have overcome his father and escaped. But he didn’t. He submitted to his father, he carried the wood, allowed his father to bind him and lay him on top of the wood.
To me that is a great picture of taking up our cross daily. We submit to God thoroughly by dying to our own self-interests, put our trust in Him that he has our best interests in mind and allow him to lead us through this world and this life. I will continue each day to pay close attention to what I think, say and do and ask God: are these the best thoughts, words and actions for my life? What does he want me to deny myself? How can I serve Him and others more today?