FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE US
I was thinking about these words of Jesus:
"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me."
Whoever said following Jesus would be easy? Jesus literally went to the cross. He denied himself utterly. Perhaps he would have enjoyed surfing or music or art. Perhaps he would have loved to be married and have children. But, for our sake, he denied himself. But scripture teaches us also that he also did this for the joy that was set before him.
Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
God is a "rewarder of those that seek him." But as we seek him, we will find him and eventually the penny must drop, that for the joy set before us, we must deny ourselves, or we will never find the life of Christ. As Saint Francis of Assissi said: "It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
We have all heard the words "Rest in peace" and we associate it rightly with death. But perhaps we should consider it again and associate it with life. Scripture teaches us to "Labour to enter that rest", lest we die as those did in the wilderness, who did not mix the word of God with faith. (Paul teaches this in the book of Hebrews).
Faith sees the joy set before us and is willing to die, because denying oneself leads to peace and joy and everlasting life.
Mat 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone desires to come after me, let hem deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.
Mat 16:25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it."
So there you have it. If you want to have life, you must be prepared to die. A disciple without self denial, is no disciple at all. Which, of course, begs another question. Is a gospel without self denial, the gospel at all. It seems clear to me that If you want to have life, you must be prepared to start dying to yourself. This is the gospel, Jesus died, to forgive you for not being willing to die to yourself, but now that his spirit is within you, you should hear him call you to finish off the old man and live in the newness of the new creation, where you live for others, having died to yourself. Are we all there. Not even Paul thought he was there. Forgetting the past, he pressed on to perfection and so should we.
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