Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
Following Christ with your whole heart means getting your pleasures aligned with God’s will.
Now, God never condemns pleasure. In fact, He extols pleasure. In Ecclesiastes 2:24-25, Solomon said, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” God wants us to experience pleasure. The problem is when pleasure becomes our overarching purpose in life. That’s when it strangles spiritual growth in our life. When we become absorbed with pleasure, we are becoming absorbed with ourselves.
Jesus warned against that danger in His parable about the seed that fell on different kinds of ground. The seed represented the word of God, and the ground represented different responses to the word of God. Jesus said in Luke 8:14, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” Concentrating on pleasure, pleasing yourself, can choke out spiritual growth in your life.
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Sometimes when Christians talk about self-denial in order to follow Christ, they think, “That means I have to push back that extra piece of pie at dessert or give up watching thirty minutes of television so I can read my Bible.” Christians talk about what they’re giving up for Lent in order to follow God, and usually they pick something they don’t care about that much anyway, saying, “I am giving this up for Lent.” We come up with this superficial idea of what it means to deny ourselves. If only it were that easy! The self-denial that Jesus is talking about is much more difficult.
Somebody once said, “Following Christ doesn’t involve just a makeover of our lives; it involves a takeover of our lives.” When we truly deny ourselves, we are saying, “God, whenever there is a conflict between Your will and my will, Your will is going to win not just some of the time, but every time.” That’s what we mean when we say aligning our pleasures with God’s will. Whenever there is a conflict between what we want to do and what God wants to do, we say, as Jesus said, “Not my will, but Your will be done.”
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Jesus’s 4 Tips for Burning Your Ships” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2017.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.