Rediscovering the Path of Self-Denial In my journey of faith, I confess that I’ve often misstepped. Instead of living the path Jesus laid out for us – denying oneself and following Him – I found myself living the reverse. Rather than denying my own desires, I unintentionally silenced Jesus in my life. Instead of putting myself to death for Him, I put Him on the back burner. This is not what being a disciple looks like.
However, we stumble, we learn, and we grow. With time, I am striving to flip the narrative – to deny my own self, not Jesus. Jesus Himself taught us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). Moreover, His teachings shed light on a profound irony: those who seek to save their own lives will lose them, while those willing to lose their lives for His sake will find them (Matt 16:25). A paradox that often challenges my habitual instincts.
Eternal Profits over Temporal Gains Our lives here on earth are fleeting, akin to a vapor (James 4:14). In our scramble to gain all we can in this temporary life, we often forget that our true life, the eternal one, is immeasurably longer. Have you ever pondered over the value of a soul, forever lost?
Our souls, the divine essence of our beings, are beyond value. However, what’s the worth of a soul eternally disconnected from God, eternally unreconciled (Rev 20:12-15)? We may accumulate the world’s riches, yet at the cost of our own souls, it’s a tragic loss. For nothing of this life can be taken to the next, save the good we’ve done in Jesus’s name. The eternal rewards for our acts of love and service are the only treasures we take with us to heaven. Everything else simply doesn’t matter in the grand scheme.
Embracing the Cross But what does it mean to take up our cross, as Jesus taught us? In modern terms, it might be akin to embracing our own personal hardships, our unique versions of the electric chair, or lethal injection. Crucifying our fleshly desires, in order to honor God, who is Spirit (Gal 5:24).
Essentially, it means surrendering our desires and sinful inclinations to the power of the cross, placing our yearning to serve Christ and others above our own interests. We do all this to glorify God (Gal 2:20). And as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us, we find ourselves curbing earthly passions (Gal 5:16). For only those who are guided by God’s Spirit can truly be His children (Rom 8:14).
To live by the flesh is to face spiritual death, but the Spirit brings life and peace, as it puts to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:12-13). By living this way, your soul gains eternal value. But living solely for fleshly desires forfeits everything.
In this journey of faith, we must constantly remind ourselves of the paradox Jesus teaches us: The path to true life, eternal life, lies in the willingness to lose ourselves in the service of Christ and for the glory of God.