How can you do what you should do when you’d rather do anything else? We know this marks the difference between success and failure. We struggle with the how.
Long before Jesus lugged His cross down the Via Dolorosa, He had issued a command to all who would follow Him:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. —Mark 8:34
The Christian life follows the life of Christ. And Jesus’ life ended literally carrying a cross all the way to His death.
We all have our own Via Dolorosa. We walk it two steps at a time.
Step 1: Denial of Your Own Will
Following Jesus involves a denial of your will. Godly self-denial means more than refusing yourself something.
- It means denying your self.
- It embraces an attitude of putting God’s desires first.
- In a word, it means surrender.
We all want spiritual growth until we realize what growth requires of us. When the strain of love and submission hit home, many people stack their crosses in the corner and choose to exit the Via Dolorosa. But cross-bearing isn’t an elective in the Christian life, nor does it give us extra credit. Jesus said a cross comes to “anyone” who follows Him.
That includes me. That includes you. We are fastened to our cross.
Step 2: Acceptance of God’s Will
If denying self speaks to our wills, then taking up our cross refers to the actions we do from that decision. When the people of Jerusalem saw Jesus dragging His cross, they knew He was headed to death. Jesus carried a literal cross. Our crosses are metaphorical. And yet they demand a literal application.
What is the difficult, daily obedience the Christian life requires of you? That’s they cross you bear all the way to death.
A Daily Two-Step with Jesus
These two steps—denial of our wills and acceptance of God’s will—sum up what it means to follow Jesus every day. In fact, Mark wrote Jesus’ command, “follow me,” in such a way in the original language that it represents a continual, “daily” action (Luke 9:23).
This daily two-step with Jesus characterizes what Paul later explained as a living sacrifice. We live lives committed to the death of self, to the renewal of our minds, and to God’s will rather than our own (see Rom. 12:1-3; Phil. 2:3-11; 4:8; Col. 3:1-10).
How can you do what you should do when you’d rather do anything else? Jesus gave us the secret to success in two steps.
Then He modeled His own words for us.
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