If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
Being a believer can be quite a conundrum at times. There are a lot of things in the Bible that are opposite to what we are taught in the world. We often fight hand, tooth & nail to win what we want but Jesus teaches us that in order to gain salvation, we are to deny ourselves in following him.
What does self-denial mean? I’ve puzzled over this for years and it is a difficult thing to deny myself the things that I wanna see happen in my life. But self-denial just for the sake of self-denial isn’t exactly right either. If we read the words of Jesus properly, you’ll find that self-denial usually comes into play when we are following Jesus’ call to be disciples. That means not doing things like bribing that cop who stopped you for an offense, or not allowing the lust of your eyes to take you to places you shouldn’t go when you’re with an attractive member of the opposite sex, and so on and so forth.
In my book, denying myself would mean giving up my personal comfort to serve in some areas of church & ministry. It’s not easy to keep myself on the go to meet people and also to be out after work when my entire body, mind & spirit screams exhaustion and tiredness. And yet it is the right thing to do; in choosing self I find that I end up being very self-centred and it’s easy to end up being self-pitying if I’m left to my own devices. I would choose people first rather than self even though it has cost me many wounds due to the betrayal of others. In opening myself up sadly people have taken up arms against me instead and well it hurts. It hurts that the very ones I try to help are the ones who have stabbed me in the back with the knowledge that they have gained about me in my transparency. I am tempted to lash back out but I’ve known God long enough to understand that I can extend the same grace He gives me to those who have hurt me. Forgiveness is very much the key here and even though it’ll still take time for the hurt to subside I’ve discovered that forgiveness works a lot better than harbouring resentment & bitterness.
We are soldiers if we follow Christ. There’s no two ways about it and we can’t be double-minded about following him. We’re either for him or against him and we can’t be on the fence. It’s difficult being a disciple cos’ we keep wanting to go back to our old ways rather than follow the new ones that Jesus demonstrates to us. Being a soldier of Christ is an analogy that we need to remember especially when the world screams of self. I am an idealist and I believe that the world can be a better place as each of us impacts the world around us individually.
Be a soldier today. Let’s fight the good fight by bringing the Word to arms against the self-centred nature we find in the world.