“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself…” Luke 9:23 (NASB)
Several years ago, in an effort to make us more grateful, we set aside three days in our home that we would refrain from eating meat. I don’t know if the experience produced gratitude, but the kids will never forget that experience. Even today, the mere mention of ‘black bean burgers’ brings quite a reaction at our house.
Jesus talks in Luke about denying ourselves. And while refraining from food can fall into that category, I believe what He was saying in this passage was to say “no” to what I want and “yes” to what He wants. It sounds easy until you try it. Somehow I seem to wake up in the morning just as selfish as I was when I went to bed the night before.
Denying self means saying “no” to my fleshly desires, over and over again.
It means being quiet when I want to throw an unkind barb into a conversation.
It means spending time with my kids when I’d really rather have some alone time.
It means doing an act of kindness for someone when I know they’ll criticize me the very next day.
It means listening to my husband at the end of a long day when I really want to just tune out and check social media.
It means hearing God’s voice and walking in obedience, even when it inconveniences me.
It means being overlooked and unnoticed when the awards are handed out and you know you deserve one.
It means laying down myself, over and over, and then once more, and doing the right thing, even when my flesh screams “no”.
It means becoming more and more like Jesus.
“To die to self is to set aside what we want in this moment and focus instead on loving God with everything we’ve got and valuing others as highly as we value ourselves.” -Jan Johnson