So the challenge is this: As we take up our cross, and follow Christ, don’t forget the importance of the first part – deny yourself. Let us ask ourselves the question, “Am I denying myself, or am I getting distracted along the way?” Satan is clever. I hardly think that if he straight said, “Put down your cross and don’t follow Jesus”, that many of us would be convinced. But what if he honed in on something appealingly personal, more particular to our individual weaknesses?
Remember, Satan didn’t tell Eve, “Hey Eve, stop walking with God!” So... You really think he’s going to be so blatant with you? Can’t you here the echo of similar devil devices in your own lives- “Surely God didn’t say…”, “Surely God doesn’t want us to deny ourselves completely, or at least not all the time”. Then comes in the subtle lie, “He just wants all your attention on him, not allowing you to enjoyyour own life!” Cue distraction- “Hmmm, this fruit tastes good”! We start feeling secure, and proud we didn’t deny ourselves. Then, we hear God call out, “Where are you”. Crippled by the fear of the reality of where we are, we look around to find ourselves naked and empty-handed. We realize we set down our cross and stepped away to indulge ourselves.
Now, go back for a second, and have another look at feeling “secure” and “proud” in your decision. Another word for it might be pride. I think you see where I’m going here. Pride comes before the “fall”. A sign, if you will- bells ringing, sirens blaring, and a robotic voice sternly shouting “warning, warning”! But seriously, does the “Fall of Man” ring any bells? For reasons that were completely false (taken on good word from Satan), Adam and Eve came to think God did not have what was best for them. Even despite all evidence to the contrary (hello perfect garden and nightly walks with the Creator), they felt it necessary to look out for themselves and look to something “better” than what God commanded.
Of course when this happens, we aren’t doomed to life without God, he makes a way just as he did for Adam and Eve- but not without repentance, and often times, consequence. Of course, he is still our loving Father, with new mercies for us every day. But the point isn’t to escape unfazed, it’s to see it for what it is before we wander. We aren’t supposed to stay twenty-somethings forever, we are called to grow up. Mature in our faiths.
Remind yourself in those moments (big and small) of “should I” or “shouldn’t I”, that God is good. We are called to deny ourselves, yes. But if you keep reading, Jesus says that it is actually for the sake of saving our life (Mark 8:35). Fully finding ourselves in him, not losing ourselves completely. He has a plan for each one of us, something personal and perfect just for us. Something that we, as his individual children, are personally equipped to do.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
So, do you really think you have a better plan, a more perfect “Eden” in mind than what the All-Knowing God has created for you? No answer necessary. Moving forward, in the times of good, bad, and (oh, yes) ugly – Deny Yourself. Go “boldly to his throne of grace”, confess your self-reliant thoughts. He gets it! Then, receive his mercy and grace, and walk in confidence with him in the garden, knowing that God is right beside you in every time of need.
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.