The act of self-denial is to deny our human will, and to choose to do the will of God. Wesley guides us to let “the will of God be our one rule of action in everything, great and small” rather than following our own will. Because “the will of God is a path leading straight to God.” While this seems to be an obvious truth, that God’s will leads us to God, we often get distracted or tempted by the ways of the world. Why do we struggle with the concept of self-denial? What resources does God give us to cultivate the practice of self-denial?
One way that we turn away from the will of God is by not taking up our cross. “A cross is anything contrary to our will, anything displeasing to our nature.” Often, when we have the option, as humans, we choose pleasure over pain. We don’t want to take up our cross because it is difficult, a hardship, may include suffering. Yet, we may find that as we take up our cross, though it is a temporary struggle we take up as we go out of our way to care for someone or love someone or any number of other things we choose to do, that it leads to lasting joy and holiness. Is there a cross you need to bear on your journey to the cross this Lent? How might we begin to understand the taking up of our cross (over and over again) and following God’s will leads to great and lasting joy?
Wesley begins his sermon by explaining that at times we view Luke 9:23 as only pertaining to Jesus’ disciples or to those being persecuted. However, this is not true. We are all called to take up our cross. Eventually, as we practice taking up our cross by making sacrifices that go against our will yet follow God’s will, then taking up our cross will become not a challenge but a way of life, a lifestyle that we pursue. Once we make the decision in big and small things alike, while the decision to take up our cross goes against our human nature, it does not go against our spiritual calling. How might we think differently about taking up our cross once we begin to think of it as a way of life to which we seek to develop and commit ourselves?