“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’”(Matthew 16:24-25).
One of God’s directions for this leg of the journey is to deny ourselves. What does that mean, especially in the context of Jesus’ atoning work for us?
Denying ourselves has traditionally been expressed by fasting, and in most Jewish households, Yom Kippur is a fast day. No food or water is consumed on this day. For Jewish people, this may be an appropriate fast, for food has always come between God and His people. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness? They were ready to abandon the path God lead them on to escape slavery in Egypt, simply for want of food. So today, as God further demonstrates our complete inability to negotiate our atonement, He commands us to give up whatever remains a barrier to our heart for God.
God knows our hearts well. He knows the challenges that have been before us as we have walked this path to Mt. Calvary. He guides us through the obstacles that we have placed before ourselves. But He also knows the road ahead, and desires our whole heart. So on this day, He reminds us again that there is something we continue to grasp that we need to give up to Him instead.
During Lent it is traditional to “give up something.” For some it is chocolate, and for others it is a midday meal. Y’shua walks with us and tells us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Denying ourselves helps us remain focused on God’s promises and His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).
Prayer: Dear God, sometimes I do not even know the depth of my dependence on things other than you. Give me the strength and guidance to deny myself and walk with you a little closer today. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.
Ponder the path: If you were to fast today, what food or activity would you choose to eliminate? Why?