Saturday, October 03, 2015

One secret of self-denial

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount - Artist unknown
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount - Artist unknown

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 9:38-50

TO CHEW ON: " ' If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off … And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off … And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out…' " Mark 9:43,45,47.

Yikes, it sounds like Jesus is talking about self-mutilation here! But I don't believe He means for us to actually slice ourselves apart—not, at least, if we take to heart the meaning of His message. He's talking about the need for self-denial that's so important, so necessary, it warrants extreme measures.

I'm reminded of a passage I came across in the last few days in a book I'm reading:
"There is but one check that provides the balance to all appetites. It's the word we'd rather not agree to, at least push as far to the side as we can—'self denial.' But without self-denial, every eater is a glutton, every earner a larcenist, every lover is a rapist. So at the outset of our call to follow Jesus is his entreaty—stern yet beautiful—'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me' - Luke 9:23 KJV" - Calvin Miller, Into the Depths of God, Kindle Location (KL) 165.

Miller goes on to elaborate on the challenges of self-denial. One he brings up is the tendency we have to focus on what we have to give up—to quit. It could be a lot of things: that third piece of cake our hand reaches for; that party our feet would take us to; that movie we can't take our eyes away from.

Miller says, "So then, why don't we do it— why don't we deny ourselves? We fail at self-denial for three reasons. First, our focus is usually on the braking system rather than the steering wheel" - KL 169. (And you'll have to get the book to find out what the other two are.)

And here is Miller's solution for that braking vs. steering focus:
"… I needed to quit quitting. Quitting involves a cathexis that is focused on what or what not to quit. Those who focus on Christ rarely have to quit anything because their desire for union with Christ prohibits them from starting anything they might later want to quit" - KL 243.

Now there's a challenge to take up: start to focus on Christ—His excellence, His example, His friendship, the well-being of an intimate relationship with Him … I'm reminded of the words of the old hymn:

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace." - Helen H. Lemmel 1922 (public domain)

Dear Jesus, please help me to take my focus off what I need to quit and keep my eyes on You today. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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