“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”
Perhaps there is nothing more Christ-like than self denial for the sake of others. Our Lord Himself left the comforts of heaven in order to be born into the most meager of accommodations, and throughout His life was often found in desolate places. He knew hunger and thirst full well; He also knew enough of exhaustion and pain to fall asleep in the midst of a storm. He knew loneliness and hardship and temptation and poverty more than any creature under heaven:
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
And all this for us! Christ gave up everything and denied His own wants, all for the sake of His people.
But when I examine my own heart, I find a different pattern at work. Instead of denying myself, I strive tirelessly to gratify myself. I selfishly seek out every pleasure; I scheme and manipulate to get my own way. And I shield my heart from every accusation with the standard of liberty and “moderation.” I thus become my own ruler, my self-supplier who does what is right in his own eyes. Of me is the saying true:
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
But Jesus who denied Himself is capable of changing me, not by His example but by his Spirit. The Spirit convicts me, humbles me, and softens my heart. He empowers me to deny my own wants for the good of others, to bless by giving up blessings. Only then can I truly follow Jesus, for:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Thank you Lord that you change hearts, even hearts as selfish and sinful as mine. Please help me to depend not on your example, but on your Holy Spirit for the power I need to sacrifice my own wants for the good of others. Just as you gave your life away, so let me give mine away, so that I may follow you and truly be your disciple. And may the praise and glory be Yours and Yours alone forever and ever! Amen.