And He said to all, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." (Luke 9:23-26)
People talk a lot about self-denial. Sometimes it's in connection with dieting or trying to get healthier; sometimes it's during Lent. But many people make a big mistake—thinking that the whole point of it is the suffering they feel. "If it is hard for me," they think, "that means I'm doing it right."
But that isn't why Jesus told His disciples to deny themselves. He told them to "follow Me." The whole point was the following—the trusting—the obedient, loving life of a disciple who was glad to let God use him to bring others to faith in Jesus. If you live this way, losing your life for Jesus' sake and for His mission, you can bet there will be suffering involved. You may have to do all sorts of things that are contrary to your normal wishes—big, small, even terribly painful. But the pain is not the point. Belonging to Jesus is.
How could it be otherwise, when we belong to the one who laid down His life on the cross for us—only to take it up again when He rose from the dead? "If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also" (John 12:26a). And in the end, we will be with the Lord—in joy and blessedness.
THE PRAYER: Help me, Lord, as I learn to follow You. Amen.
* Do you "give something up for Lent"? If so, does it help you? How?
* What about "taking something up" instead—something that draws you closer to Jesus?
* Will there be self-denial in heaven? Why or why not?
Lenten Devotions were written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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