Self Denial

And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

— St. Luke 9:23-24

Some think Jesus means that the disciple must go against his likings because they are his likings; that something is gained by abstinence from what is pleasant, or by the doing of what is disagreeable—that to thwart the lower nature is in itself a good. Now, I will not dare say what a man may not get good from, if the thing be done in simplicity and honesty.  When a man, for the sake of doing what is right, does in mistake that which is not right, God will take care that he be shown the better way. The mere effort of will, arbitrary and uninformed of duty, may add to the man’s power over his lower nature; but in that nature it is God who must rule, and not the man. From a man’s rule of himself, in smallest opposition, however devout, to the law of his being, arises the huge danger of nourishing, by the pride of self-conquest, a far worse than even the animal self—the demonic self. True victory over self is the victory of God in the man, not of the man alone. In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably. In crossing his natural, therefore, in themselves, right inclinations, a man may develop a self-satisfaction which in its very nature is a root of all sin. Doing the thing God does not require of him, he puts himself in the place of God, becoming one who commands, not one who obeys. To enjoy heartily and thankfully, and do cheerfully without, when God wills we should, is the way to live in regard to things of the lower nature; these must not be confounded with the things of the world. The law of God is enough for me, and for laws invented by man, I will none of them. They are false, and come all of rebellion. God, not man, is our judge.