*Prayer and Self-denial
“He must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 9:23 NIV
An understanding of our Lord’s meaning of these words is critical. In every stage of the spiritual life, there is a variety of hindrances to attaining grace or growing in it. Yet, all are resolvable into these general ones: Either we do not deny ourselves, or we do not take up our cross.
This is a point most opposed by numerous and powerful enemies. All our nature rises up in its own defense against this. Those who take nature rather than grace for their guide abhor the very sound of it. The great enemy of our souls well knows its importance and moves every stone against it.
Even those who have in some measure shaken off the yoke of the devil and experienced a real work of grace in their hearts are not friends to this grand doctrine of Christianity. Although it is peculiarly insisted on by their Master, some are as deeply ignorant of it as if there were not one word about it in the Bible.
Others are further off still, having unawares imbibed strong prejudices against it. They represent self-denial and taking up our cross in the most odious colors. They call it seeking salvation by works or seeking to establish our own righteousness. You are in constant danger of being wheedled, harassed, or ridiculed out of this important gospel doctrine. Let fervent prayer, then, go before, accompany, and follow what you are about to read.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this thirty-second lesson on prayer, Wesley takes up what he calls, “this grand doctrine of Christianity,” the cross of Christ, and the opposition against it.
St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:17-31 explains this opposition further, by saying,
“17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. 18For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written, ” I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29so that no man may boast before God. 30But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31so that, just as it is written, ” LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD” (NASB).
Wesley ends this lesson with, “Let fervent prayer, then, go before, accompany, and follow what you are about to read.” So, let us read Luke 9:23 in context through verse 26 to see what he was referring to.
23And He was saying to them all, ” If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25“For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26” For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels (NASB).