Today begins the season of Lent. While we do not formally celebrate this season with the imposition of ashes and other practices, it is still a good discipline for us to walk together with a consciousness that helps us focus on the work of the cross. The next several blogs will help point us in that direction, so that we may see our Savior and hopefully encounter Him in fresh ways.
In this first column, I want us to think for a few moments about self-denial. Jesus said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.” Following Jesus is preceded by and inclusive of self-denial. This is not a popular thought or common practice in our culture. We actually are constantly bombarded by just the opposite message: “Indulge yourself. Grab life with both hands. Fill your life with things that bring pleasure. Drink your fill of good things.” To such a culture, the message of self-denial sounds foreign.
But we need to know that we did not come to this first. Every human being, because of our brokenness and sin, is inclined to think that ultimate pleasure and happiness can only be obtained as we meet the demands of our flesh. When we exalt our flesh and our needs over God’s demands and God’s call of self-sacrifice and self-denial, we end in emptiness and not fulfillment; sadness and not joy.
Jesus not only called us to self-denial, He modeled the way. We follow Him as our guide to this end… that we might die to ourselves and live to Him alone.
MEDITATION: Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
REFLECTION: How may I today and in the days to come, find ways to daily say “NO” to the flesh that I might more perfectly say “YES” to God?