“…must deny himself…”

At church last night, in our observance of Lent, we focused on what I understand to be the traditional 2nd Saturday of Lent scripture (I may be wrong about that traditional part, this Lent stuff is so new to me). As part of the discussion, we talked about the passage of Mark 8:34-9:1. Within this text is the statement,”If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Paul asked for examples of denying oneself both in the correct sense and in the improper sense. The contributions were very good. Tithing and time were both given as ways we can deny something for ourselves and instead give it to God. But my brain went in a completely different direction.

I saw that the “deny himself” phrase seemed closely tied to the “take up his cross” phrase. That connection said to me that this denial must be a very profound thing, not just me denying myself desert or baseball cards or 100 watt light bulbs. It said to me that this denying myself must be more of a complete life change, a paradigm shift, a different way of relating to God. Denying myself meant to me that I have to live like the Lord’s prayer where I ask God this day for my daily bread. Where I ask God to sustain me for this day without yet regarding tomorrow. All God has promised is to sustain me for this moment. And to me denying myself means that I quit planning so far out, that I quit trying to fix the future, that I quit living out there in front of me so much as I am living right here and now. That I trust God to sustain me for this moment, and then worry about the next moment when it is here.

So the next question I have is this: what is my cross? Is it the same cross that Jesus carried? Is that what he means? Or is there a different cross for each of us? Is my cross something that Christ asks me to do or is it some burden I carry or is it the same burden he carried? I don’t think I have a good answer for that yet. Obviously he is not expecting each of us to be physically crucified. What does he mean? And is my cross something that does something directly for another or are others indirectly affected because of what my cross does to me?

Another question I have is this: does denying oneself mean that it has to involve a suffering of some sort? Or can denying oneself be something that we enjoy? Or if it does mean suffering can it be joyful suffering that I actually am eager to do?

So I guess it appears that I actually have more questions than answers. I though I was going to put down answers here, but most of what I see is questions. Interesting.

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6 responses to ““…must deny himself…”

  1. Pingback: Continuing the Conversation … 2.16.08 « the WHEATLAND MISSION

  2. Maybe it would be helpful to think of the crosses that the saints who have come before us have had to bear. The first one that comes to my mind is Martin Luther. Holding up the church that he desperately loved without accepting the hypocrisy that was so deeply infested in it, causing him to be excommunicated by that which he held dear. Bonhoeffer’s cross was the Germany that he loved and longed for that had been overrun by a tyrant.

    I think it is interesting that the cross is composed of two things intersecting at right angles, symbolizing things incompatible in their current states, burdening the one who chooses to carry it–on the hope that the system can be smashed to smithereens and rebuilt again in right relationship.

    What things, in and around you, has God shown to be incompatible with his kingdom in their current states? I didn’t intend to write more than the first paragraph, but thoughts just kept coming. I hope they help further this discussion.

  3. Wow, great things to think about. I’m glad you wrote down what you shared at house church, Doug. I was trying to remember exactly what you’d said as I thought more about this scripture. And thanks for adding your comments, Teason. Both of you help to add even more depth and meaning to this scripture for me.

  4. It could mean to rethink our view of life and recognize that life is not about us. It’s more about Christ and becoming conformed to his image. The cross is a symbol of death, so it could mean dying to my view of life in order to see and adopt the view of life with Christ at the center. Lif is not about my fulfillment, but my devotion to Christ and becoming like him.

  5. freestyleroadtrip

    Teason – I like your description of the cross being and intersection of things that are not compatible. This is a completely new idea for me.

    Jenny – I am glad you are getting something out of the discussion.

    Dad – I like your thoughts about the cross representing dying to my view of life so that I can take up that of Christ.

    Great stuff! Thanks for reading.

  6. Here’s a further thought I read in a book by John Stott. The next verse in Mark says “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but woever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Here’s the quote: “If yhou insist on holding on to yourself, and refuse to let yourself go but determine to live for yourself, you will lose yourself. That is the way of death, not the way of life. But if you are willing to lose yourself, to give yourself away in love, in the service of the gospel, then in the moment of complete abandon, when you think you have lost everything, the miracle takes place and you find yourself.”

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