“Me, myself, and I” is an unholy trinity we must remove from its centrality in our lives. If we truly seek to follow after God, the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—must supersede us. There is no room for self-worship and self-promotion.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'” Matthew 16:24 NIV
Jesus’ command is for all believers—that means you and me. If we desire to follow Jesus, we must weigh the costs. If we are right now living according to the dictations of our wills and cultural norms, these costs will be great indeed! Thus, assessing the goal of our wills is a good starting point.
Let us re-evaluate our life goals. Truly, if our goal for a good life is our well-being at all costs, we will be unable to follow through on Christ’s command to deny ourselves. We must first combat the lie that our best interest is met only through ensuring we get our own way. Following this lifestyle only leads to resentment and bitterness as people and circumstances inevitably prevent us from leading the happy fulfilling life we idealize (James 4). Just as the Acts 20:35 attests, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” so also living for the profit of others and God will truly bring the most fulfilling life.
For instance, if you live with another, whether it be a roommate or a spouse or a relative, and you strive to make a home for yourself in the manner you envision, sooner or later the organization you prefer will be a disarray, the cleanliness will not be pristine, the laundry will appear in undesirable locations. This will lead to an unhappy home if the value is placed on maintaining it your way. Rather, if you aim to make the house the home the other desires, you will find greater success and happiness. Removing your expectations removes opportunities for frustration and resentment.
Furthermore, when our objective is the betterment of others and God, the costs of following Jesus are joys to bear to that end instead of hindrances to our aspirations. I have been convicted recently of the need to change my outlook in this way. If I am to live for others, my day’s to-do-list needs to be re-prioritized. However, I don’t mean by re-prioritize what is typically understood in our culture today; I don’t intend to figure out how to be the most efficient or productive. Rather, it’s starting the day asking, “What can I do today to bring joy to God?” and “What can I do today to bring joy to others?” The answers to those questions should be the priority of the day’s accomplishments. When those are complete, often I’ll find the question, “What can I do today to bring joy to me?” will be met incidentally. That joy will be good and life-giving. I will have purpose even if perhaps not as much pleasure. It’s a way I want to live my days instead of asking myself, “What do I need to do today?” and “How productive was I?” at the close of the day. In this lifestyle, the joy-eating feelings of resentment, defensiveness, guardedness, antagonism, and bitterness will have little opportunity to dominate my emotions.
The cost to following Christ begins with denying ourselves. It is a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that has a reward both earthly and eternal. The cost of the alternative is far greater. Let’s begin today to bend our wills in submission to God’s will, and we will find that in losing our life, we find it, and a far greater one at that.