And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Certain members of the media dubbed the period of the 1980’s as the era of “ME.” Looking back, I think they were referring to political policies of the time; they were right about the culture’s inward focus. The beginning of that decade even saw the launch of a popular magazine called, Self. What the pundits of the period seemed to get wrong, or perhaps simply did not understand, is that there has never been a time in history when there has not been an inward focus on one’s self.
Our sinful nature is, by definition, self-centered. In fact, it was the lure of being ‘like God,’ to assert one’s own control over life and death, good and evil – in essence to be one’s own god — that caused sin to enter into the world. The serpent promised Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed God (by taking from the Tree of Knowledge) they would be just like God. And that was a temptation they just couldn’t resist. The problem, however, was they were duped by the Enemy. The knowledge of good and evil did not free them to be their own masters of their own fate, but enslaved them into the horrible cycle of sin and death. Instead of living a sinless and free life with God in the garden, they instead chose a life of servitude to sin and Satan.
The self-centered life is no life at all. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
Jesus came to set us free from sin and death – to restore us to a relationship with God lost long ago in the Garden of Eden. We are no longer enslaved to ‘ourselves’ but have been given a new nature – one where God reigns’ supreme rather than our own sinful nature.
As believers, we need to die daily to our ‘self life’ by picking up our cross and following Jesus. We have been given a higher purpose in life than serving ourselves: To love God and to love others. Now, our life is about, “What would God have me to do?” instead of “What do I want to do?” And, rather than, “What can I do to get what I want,” we are saying, “What can I do to help that person?”
When we realize that life is not about “us” but about loving God and others, we are truly free to live an abundant life.
Let my hands perform His bidding;
Let my feet run in His ways;
Let mine eyes see Jesus only;
Let my lips speak forth His praise.
—Mary D. James, 1871, “All for Jesus”