Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’ Matt 16:24
Deny self. That’s not a very feel-good statement. What is Jesus asking of his followers? Of me?
Jesus, in Matt 16:24, echoes God’s commandment from the beginning of time. “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”
I’ve been reading A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God.
Tozer writes,”Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk, stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne…God’s gifts now take the place of God.”
What gifts now take the place of God in my heart? Where do I fail to deny “self”?
Self-righteousness. Self-pity. Self-confidence. Self-sufficiency. Self-admiration. Self-love. And from self, stems a whole laundry list of things that take the place of God.
Jesus asks me to sacrifice, to give up, to deny the things in my heart that replace him. That sounds painful. And it is.
But what has really rocked my world the last couple of weeks is that this is exactly what Jesus walked through for me and you. Jesus didn’t go to the cross because he had no say, and that’s just what was supposed to happen.
No, he chose to be crucified. His life wasn’t taken from him, he willingly gave up it. In the beautiful dichotomy of being fully-God and fully-man, Jesus wrestles with this. Look at the Garden of Gethsemane. But but he ultimately chooses to fulfill his Father’s will at all costs. And as tragic and wretched his crucifixion was, I am so thankful that Christ denied himself and chose the cross.
No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my father. John 10:18
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8
Thank you Jesus for choosing the cross. Help me to choose you.
If you’re interested, here’s some more verses that struck me. And you can read The Pursuit of God online here. Happy Easter.
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51
‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.’ Matthew 26:39
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8
For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’ Romans 15:3
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay day our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6