Hebrews 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens – Jesus the Son of God- let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”
Interestingly, the passage doesn’t tell us God will “fix our problems” or “ease our difficulty”, but that we will receive mercy and find grace because that is what actually helps us in times of need.
We are solution-oriented individuals. However, scripture tells us we are to be a Christ-focused family. If left unto ourselves, we will choose to try to fix our problems, and get what we think we need.
If Christ is our high priest, and he was “tempted in every way but without sin”, what does that actually mean? Did he always get what he felt his flesh needed? Well, he had difficulty with his friends, constant harassment from community leaders, and then there was that 40 days without food thing… but, amongst the other things, let me go straight to the obvious big one. Not to be vulgar, but when he was faced with being unjustly tortured, ending with certain distressful death on the cross, I doubt his flesh was in total agreement. Seriously, the bible tells us he was fully human and also fully God. (John 1:1-3, 14 and John 8:58) So… basic human nature is self-preservation. I would have to draw a scripturally lined arrow, and suggest that Jesus’s flesh was no different. However, he literally denied his basic self-interests, and took up his cross.
And, in Mark 8:34, he commands us to do the same: …”If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.
So what is denial? Merriam-Webster says it is “a refusal to satisfy a request or desire”. Perhaps the Google dictionary strikes a bit closer with “the action of declaring something to be untrue”. In other words, “the bible says that God has a good plan for my future to give me hope (Jer. 29:11), but I don’t know if I believe that, so I’ll keep trying to make my own way. Besides, doesn’t the bible also say ‘God helps those who help themselves’?” (Nope, actually that was made famous by Benjamin Franklin, and last I checked his writings were not included as God’s Spirit-inspired words.)
One might even say that if you piece those definitions together, the best antonym of self-denial, is self-relial. Ok, I made that word up, but at least let’s call it self-reliance, or self-sufficiency.
Now hold on, you may say, isn’t being self-sufficient a good thing? Sure! If you are a twenty-something and are forging ahead into the world and out of your parent’s house. But if you are married (newlyweds or decades deep), the single-focused act of being “self-reliant” will present certain doom for that sacredly united relationship. You can’t stay bonded to your betrothed and put self, first.
Spoiler alert, we are the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:31-32). So, as we approach God’s throne of grace with boldness, shouldn’t we do so hand-in hand with Christ? When you walk with somebody, your steps are in sync, you are unified. As we have been raised with Christ (hope for the eternal as well as renewed daily hope for purpose and part in bringing God glory), we must first have allowed our flesh to “die” with his. You don’t get one without the other. Just let yourself go already, and then you can truly start to live!
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.