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Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).

Alexander the Great is considered the most successful general in history. In just ten years, and by the age of 32, he had conquered everything there were to conquer - everything, that is - except himself. After conquering the mighty Persian empire, he himself would be conquered, not by a great army, or secret assailant, but by uncontrolled drinking. 

Like Alexander the Great, many have succumbed, at the pinnacle of success, to an enemy over which they found themselves powerless - self.

In the war over self, people have often been told to try harder. Is getting the victory over one’s self really about how hard one tries? Wherein lies the hope of victory over self? We explore that in today’s study devotional.

What does it mean to die to self? Jesus lists three things that one must do in order to be His disciple (Luke 9:23): To be my disciple, you must:

  1. Deny yourself
  2. Pick up your cross
  3. Follow me

None of these come naturally to us. “For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will” (Romans 8:7). Those who are NOT in Christ will always pay attention to the flesh - the sinful nature - to satisfy its cravings. They will choose to obey their sinful desires rather than God.

This is not the case when you come to Christ. “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You no longer make provision for the flesh to satisfy its longings (Romans 13:14). 

A question that is often asked by those dating is if they should travel with “protection” just in case… God says, “Don’t do it”, make no provision for the flesh.  

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do (Romans 8:12). When you were married to your flesh, you had an obligation to serve it, but now you have died to the flesh, and are married to another, that is, Christ. He now has your affections. You choose to serve Him, who gave His life for you.

Pick Up Your Cross

We sometimes think of our cross as those people or situations that get under our skins and irritate us, whether an overbearing coworker or boss; a difficult spouse, or disobedient children. When the Bible speaks of the believer’s cross, however, it’s not referring to any of those. Galatians 5:24 tells us the purpose of the cross: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). The cross is to crucify the flesh. It is that decision to not satisfy the desires of the flesh. It is choosing to listen to the Holy Spirit and walk according to His voice - rather than the demands of the carnal, sinful nature. 

Dying to self is listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice telling you to look away when the fleshly desire is to keep looking or to hold your tongue when you feel like sharing a piece of your mind. It’s choosing, like Christ, to say - even where it’s not a matter of violating God’s law - not my will, but Thine be done. 

Before we received Christ we were obligated to the flesh to carry out its demands. Because we died in Christ, we have no more obligation to the flesh. We are free to live according to the Spirit.

Follow Me

Jesus is our great example. He was tempted in all points just as we are, but never sinned. How? Total dependence on the Father. He could be seen before sunrise going to the mountain to pray. Sometimes He spent all night in prayer. If He, the perfect Son of God, needed to spend time in prayer, how much so do we, fallen human beings? Although He was God, He did not seek to do what He felt like doing at the moment. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He wished for a way out. He did not want to bear sin. He did not want to suffer the wrath of the Father, but He did that which we must do on a daily basis: He surrendered His desires to the will of the Father. Not my will, but Thine be done.

May we also surrender our desires, our longings, our affections to the will of the Father; to do His will, and not ours. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13). If you live to the flesh, you die. But you will live if by the help of God's Spirit you say "No" to your desires, and yes, to His revealed will.  

21 Days of Prayer

The storms of this life often threatens to overflow and overwhelm us; but in God's Word we find reasons to keep swimming; keep striving; keep pressing and holding on. In this series we explore 21 reasons why we can have hope, even in a world, or personal experience, that feels hopeless. 

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