Have you ever taken notice that “no” seems to be the first word that children really grasp the meaning of? With both of my boys, they started by saying “Momma“, then “Daddy” and then they both jumped right to the adamant and emphatic use of the word “no”. I guess they hear that word so much as they reach for outlets, stick things in DVD players and investigate every new thing by putting it in their mouths that they quickly come to know the meaning of the word.
In Luke 9:23 Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” This week I came across a note written by my Greek professor from Valley Forge. The note gave a different spin to the Greek term found in this verse, translated “let him deny himself” in the New King James Version. Professor Joyner wrote, “arnaysatho–he says no to himself.” For some reason, as I read that it had much more impact than “let him deny himself.” I had to honestly sit and ask myself, “when do I say no to me?” And then, as I prayed and mediated I began to realize that this verse is Jesus explaining how to be like Him. If I am to “come after” Him, to follow Him, to be like Him I am going to have to have my character forged and changed into His likeness. Did anyone ever say no to himself more than Jesus? He said no to his glory and came to earth as one of us. He said no to His power and chose to allow Himself to be mocked, ridiculed, lied about and betrayed. He said no to His will and chose the will of His Father and bore the cross. The more I studied this the more that I realized that from the very beginning God has been saying no to Himself on my behalf. While I was His enemy He died for my sins. When I was powerless He chose to love me. When I continue to be selfish He continues to be selfless. He will be faithful even when I am faithless.
The road to the cross is not a decision to say yes, it is a willingness to say no. I will never get to the point of taking up the cross to follow Jesus if I will not first say no to myself. The rich young man refused to say no to his riches and went away sad. Pilate refused to say no to his ambition and the voices of men and had Jesus put to death. The Pharisees refused to say no to their position and pride and denied the Messiah. Judas refused to say no to his greed and zeal for his understanding of the cause and became the betrayer of Christ. This list is as long as the road to destruction is wide. The only way to walk the narrow path of life is to say no to ourselves. Jesus did it constantly, in fact He still does it. The Father modeled it from the beginning of time and continues as He holds back Christ’s return so that more mercy may be poured out. Will we? Will we say no to ourselves today? Will we say no to our shame, our ambition, our comfort, our dreams and our made up minds? Will we say no to ourselves so that we can walk in the path of the cross, the path of freedom, the path of salvation? Never has more been gained than in the moment that we choose to say no to ourselves and yes to the cross. This week I think I may have discovered that the path of full and true deliverance is not hard to find but it is hard to say. I don’t know about you, but I need to say no much more often.