Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. –Matthew 16:24 (KJV)
Self-denial is an act of sacrifice. Human nature seeks to hold onto self, which is always at odds with Christ’s call. Jesus calls us to cast off the chains of self and walk forward in the blessed freedom He provides. Why is self so restrictive, burdensome, and stifling to spiritual growth? The world views self, or living for what we want, as liberating. However, this is never the case. Self enslaves us in the chains of seeking our own way without any divine guidance whatsoever. God will not stop us in this endeavor, for He has endowed humanity with free will. We are free at any moment to plunge forward on our own accord seeking our own way in life. Countless people have convinced themselves they are better off seeking to live life their way without any help from God. This explains why Jesus was so adamant about denying self. Self-sacrifice is an act of the will, yet the reverse of the world’s view. Followers of Christ willingly surrender to the Lordship of Christ, which presents the ultimate paradox; we find freedom through complete submission.
My own experience has proven to me how doing as Jesus said, which is denying self, brings about true spiritual freedom. I still struggle with the pains and challenges of life just as anyone else, yet I possess a divine resource for coping. This resource transcends human reason and any coping strategies I may employ. A relationship with Jesus Christ continually produces joy, peace, and spiritual power. I am free from having to carry my burdens alone. This is the spiritual freedom denying self brings about. Were I to go back to the old way, I would then be wrapping myself all over again in the chains of self and all the pain that accompanies it. Christ empowers us to carry His cross each day, which is a spiritual application of the mind of Christ functioning in all aspects of life. The implications of this are life changing.
Rather than wallow in self we walk in spiritual power. Instead of living in constant fear, we walk in confident faith. Rather than surrendering to passions that will bring us down in ruin, we resist anything which stands in the way of Christ’s will for us. Rather than dwelling on past mistakes, we look ahead in the peace of God’s forgiving presence. The sorrows and agonies of life no longer hold us captive, for we have cast off self as a filthy garment and have put on Christ.
Therefore, we have a choice. We can walk in self, which has no power and brings us down, or we can deny self and daily take up the cross of Christ, which empowers and lifts us up to move toward our full potential in Christ. The choice is clear. Choose Christ. Choose life. Live the abundant life today.
God bless you.