“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
“I want it! I want it! I want it!” echoed through the Target checkout area as a little boy sat screaming in the child seat of a shopping cart, his hands out stretched, tears streaming down his face. Fascinated by the audacity of the child; I stared, curious to know what he wanted so desperately. Alas, the moment he’d been waiting for arrived. The item was placed in his chubby arms as he greedily clasped the large, round toy with his little fingers. Then I realized, as I watched mom trying to keep her little guy from chucking the toy out of the cart onto the floor, that what he wanted wasn’t the toy at all. What he wanted was his own way. What he wanted was to be in charge. What he wanted is what we all want…control.
Now, I don’t have physical temper tantrums (too often) but I do communicate, “I want my way!” all the time. In her book Altar’d, Jennifer Kennedy Dean writes, “Flesh is proud, possessive, demanding, grabby, angry, envious, wants to own and manage and manipulate and get its way.” [Altar’d, Day 1, Page 16] Ouch! My sights can be locked on something as small as a chocolate chip cookie and as big as wanting the Universe to revolve around my every whim. And, like the toddler, if I get what I want then the target of my desire immediately changes. Never satisfied, flesh destroys contentment, peace, love and relationship. So what’s the remedy? It is to live in denial.
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” Luke 9:23
Deny myself? How often does that happen? Honestly, I rarely deny myself; but the choice is alway available. The “if” in Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:23 implies choice and sacrifice. To put shoe leather on this statement I’ll share what it would look like for me to personally deny myself and take up my cross daily:
- If I would come after Jesus I would deny myself large food portions, exercise daily, and surrender to the Spirit’s leading to take care of the body God gave me in order to glorify Him like Jesus did.
- If I would come after Jesus, I would deny myself of sleeping in or browsing Facebook and take up my cross of laboring in prayer for family, friends, my church and our nation daily like Jesus did.
- If I were to come after Jesus I would deny myself taking offense to something someone said or did. Instead I would forgive daily, nailing all offenses to the cross like Jesus did for me.
Why is this so difficult? Because we want to be elevated. Like Adam and Eve we want to be like God. However, we know that there can only be one master. Mom needs to be in charge for things to go well for her toddler’s future. God needs to be in charge for things to go well with your future and mine. The good news is that God is always in charge and never gives in to our whining! But, for me to be at peace with God (Not have a rift in our relationship) I need to acquiesce to God’s authority over my life. Foundational to walking in freedom is the understanding that God is God. Once that’s established then everything else falls into place. Whether you struggle with same sex attraction, a critical spirit, smoking or overeating the solution is the same. Jesus knows best and I will follow Him. There may be times we don’t like what that means. There may be times when we are tempted to yell. “I want it!” But thanks be to God He will never give in. We have to literally deny Him (instead of ourselves) to get something we want when God says, “No.” Jesus is not a weak, sleep-deprived mom who just wants us to be quiet. Jesus is the mighty King, holy and righteous who sovereignly dictates His loving boundaries because He loves us. He has given us Himself. We have everything we need for life and Godliness in Christ. We are the children of the King, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1, and the Bride of Christ, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22. The way up is to kneel down in a heart posture of humility.
Through this filter, picture the child in the shopping cart, eyes fixed on his momma. He’s watching her every move. He knows she loves him and will give him what is best for him. He knows by experience that she is good, loving and generous. He also knows that she is just and disciplines him when he needs it. He is secure and at peace. Anticipating good things, he smiles when she says, “I bought a gift for you. When we get home we can play with it together.” Then, he laughs and claps his hands in joyful expectation and says, “I love you, mommy.”
This is a picture of resting in Jesus and the work He has accomplished for us. “I want it!” transitions to, “nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done.” I encourage you to write out your own snapshot of hope as the Lord “is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 What would your reality look like if you set your eyes like flint on Jesus, believing He is who He says He is? What would your moments look like if you were living in the reality that you are healed?
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5