I’ve been reading and studying Matthew chapter 16 for the past week or two. In this chapter, there’s a verse where Jesus says:
If anyone would follow after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (16:24)
I’ve always had a hard time with this verse and similar verses. After all, I’m a girl that likes to live according to “the rules.” All my life, pastors, theologians, and commentators have been telling me that when Jesus died for me that the rules were broken and are no longer for my salvation. Instead, I find that I can just put my faith and trust in Jesus and be saved.
Then, Jesus goes and says things like the above and I begin to wonder in the back of my head if I need to deny myself the things that I want in order to live like him. This took on even more meaning (and confusion) for me recently when I was studying in a Bible study on the belt of truth, and I was watching a lecture with Priscilla Shirer talk about tucking the desires that you have that do not align with God’s goals and will for our lives into the belt of His truth.
That night, as I was sitting there, God spoke to me as close to audibly as he’s ever spoken to me. The immediate thought that came into my head was that my blog was what he wanted me to tuck into the belt of truth. Every single time I dismissed the thought it would come back to me in a building feeling of inner knowing that would become stronger with each thought.
I love my blog and I had often imagined it to be my ministry. It has been a place where I had been doing an increasing amount of reviews, promotion and other things in an effort to contribute to my family, and as I would think about it, it was truly an effort to once again “help” God provide for our family in a way that he had not asked me to to. It’s humiliating when you realize that something that you “love” is something that’s not God’s will for you. So, as you’ve seen, I’ve started dropping the number of reviews I’ve been doing, and I’ve been cutting back on my writing. It’s in a hope that my authentic voice (if it chooses to come back) will return soon and will emerge in a way that honors God.
When I first thought on these things, it seemed like a lot of self-denial to not write, review curriculum and to not spend time promoting myself. Yet, it’s truly been one of the easiest cuts I’ve ever made. Proof that God gave me the strength to do something that I hadn’t the slightest desire to do on my own. Instead, I realized in the doing that it wasn’t self denial as much as it was a denial of putting my “self” first.
Over the weekend, I found a quote from Warren Weirsbe’s commentary on Mark that I found to be very appropriate, both to my recent struggles and to the idea of “denying self.” This is the quote:
Denying self is not the same as self-denial. We practice self-denial when, for a good purpose, we occasionally give up things or activities. But we deny self when we surrender ourselves to Christ and determine to obey his will.
I think I’ve finally got it. Instead of drowning in the imaginary pain of “self-denial,” if I align myself to Christ and the truth that I find in Him, then denying self isn’t something that it painful. It’s the next logical step in obedience.