Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
I must go back to Tuesday's scripture once again and look further. When we speak of taking up our cross, we speak of self-denial. But more needs to be said concerning self-denial, that being that it is not an end in itself; it only brings us to the desired goal. Self-denial that does not have a consequential goal serves only as a ground for boasting of one's own efforts to deny self. Jesus did not go to the cross simply to prove he could deny Himself and do it. He went to the cross in obedience to His Father who had a plan to save all who would come to Him as a result of the sacrifice of Christ. His sacrifice became a door into heavenly places, reconciled to the Father and restored unto our full heritage in Him. Hebrews tells us, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (12:2). John Piper, in his book Desiring God, has this to say concerning Esau's lack of self-denial: "Esau lost his life because he preferred the pleasure of a single meal above the blessings of his birthright in the chosen family. This is a picture of all people who refuse to deny themselves 'the fleeting pleasures of sin' (Hebrews 11:25). But note well! The main evil is not in choosing a meal, but in despising his birthright. Self-denial is never a virtue in itself. It has value precisely in proportion to the superiority of the reality embraced above the one denied." So, in other words, we deny the lesser to pursue the greater. Don't settle for what is temporary and fleeting when all of heaven is awaiting our enjoyment and fulfillment. And (please don't misunderstand what I am saying, but. . . ) don't stay so stuck on what we do or don't do that we lose sight of delighting ourselves in the Lord. What we do or don't do is propelled by our desire for God Himself.
Lord, I deny myself and take up my cross that I might follow You. Help me to embrace all that will bring me closer to You.