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.

Commentary

by Leah Bond

Oh the delight of reading anew and studying the scripture to learn the heart of the message here. One of the richest passages and most memorable MacDonald sermons for me personally.

My thoughts and the study of this passage lead me to two conclusions. First, our God is humble, his main character trait is willingness to lower himself into our place, and to serve in our filth and muck with humility, patience, and strength. Second that he, as the great master craftsman, created this vast reality for the ultimate moment of revealing himself, his own entrance in the flesh onto our scene is as helpless babe, and his revelation is like a self portrait, he chose to show us of himself.

The cosmos, the immeasurable expanse and also complexity of the universe, the irreducible complexity of the smallest particles of matter, all knit together like a canvas to be the backdrop for his most profound, intimate and vulnerable expression of himself. He extends himself in Christ to each of us, a love offering and invitation to each of his beloved souls. Not even the whole world can be given in exchange for one soul! This man of heaven loves the world and the world breaks his heart. The the Life released from out of his infinite Spirit floods the universe in Love and Light and resurrection Life.

What is amazing to me is the humble portrait he paints. The source of His great saving power.The masterpiece, the self portrait, his image is in a week and dependent baby, a hungry and haggard and homeless traveler, a sojourner, the stranger, the exile on the earth. The rejected, betrayed, abused, accused, hated and reviled suffering broken Lord. The humble Lord. The humble humble lord we follow.

The natural nature Of the Lord self is in equality with God, in his grasp, He releases his grasp, his perfect harmony in the Spirit, he became self denial to meet us in our disjointed condition, walk along side, mend heal guide and restore, behind beside and before each and every soul. And when we can be all those things that he became, and begin to "desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one"(Heb 11:16) and when our desire is For Him, our God (who is not ashamed to be called our God because He has prepared a glorified place and life for us both in resurrected body and spirit-Meaning he is a faithful and true God who makes good on his promises to us!!) then we will not be ashamed to call Him Lord. His source and our source are the same. Christ is the "way out and the way in" and the way is the humble nature of our God, his image made anew in each of us daily. No self over self or law of man can touch the path of Life in Christ.