Daily Reading: This morning, we’re reading Luke 9. Luke 9 is packed with powerful words from Jesus. Take some time to soak it in. Start there, then read this devotion that will tie in with what you’ve read.
My 2 year old, Dave, is a really sweet kid. He loves to give and receive hugs and kisses. He smiles all the time. He gets excited and shouts a loud “DADDDYYYYY!” every time I come home. He even likes to take his hand out of his mouth, pick up some food, and offer to share it with you. Of course, all this good behavior is true until you make the fatal mistake of saying the most offensive word known to man: “NO.” The moment Dave wants something, if you deny him, he will lose his mind. All the fury a two year old can produce comes pouring out of his little body. Of course, “loosing it” earns a spanking, not getting his way, but that’s a topic for another post.
Why does Dave “lose it” when his mom or I say no? Because we humans want our way. I’m really no different than Dave. I veil my tantrums a bit (most of the time), but at the end of the day, I just want my way. And you can stop judging me. You do too! No one ever thinks to themselves, “I really don’t want what I want.” The problem comes in when a higher authority wants something other than us. When I say no to playing on the swing set in a thunder storm, or eating ice cream for breakfast, I’m imposing my will on Dave’s. The crisis begins.
So what about our wills? Jesus is pretty direct about it. His will holds the authority. He says it like this in Luke 9:
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
“Let him deny himself.” Following Jesus includes saying no to yourself. Jesus bore our sins in his body, rose victorious over sin and death, and now sits ruling and reigning at the right hand of the Father. When his will conflicts with ours, we need not throw a tantrum, but we must obey. Jesus compares this self detail to death itself. To say no to self is to daily wear a cross. It reminds us that like Paul, we “have been crucified with Christ” and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.
That could sound like bad news, until we remember that Jesus has made a way for our flesh to die so that we can spend eternity with him. Jesus’ call to self denial isn’t for the purpose of punishment but for the preservation of our souls. His will redirects our will to the path that leads to ultimate joy. Is it hard to say, “no” to self? Absolutely, but “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”