Learning to Deny Self and Follow

“He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ…’ 

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.’

“Calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…’

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them… And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ For he did not know what to say… And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’  And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.” Mark 8:29,31-34; 9:2,4-8

Peter had so much going for him, and Jesus persisted to get it all going for Him. Peter had great natural strengths in the flesh that, combined with his immense passion sometimes made for awkward mismatch. Day by day, situation by situation, the Lord matured him from being controlled by his impulses to coming under the authority of His Spirit. Denying himself would encompass his spontaneity, his conclusions, his dynamic ministry. The zeal was there, and over time Jesus bridled it to follow His lead. He would learn true hope, the testing of faith, the conforming of passions to holiness. (Romans 8:5-6; 1 Peter 1:3a,6-7,13-15)

Our big steps forward in faith’s maturing are not without setbacks. Certainly Peter participated in both. But our gracious Lord forgives and restores, and we are the better and stronger for it. Every experience of His grace, His loving correction and repair, is an opportunity to know Him better and trust Him more, furthering our stride.

Are we tempered enough to be self-aware, and recognize where we jump ahead, react without restraint, or speak without a heavenly filter? If we are not naturally so thoughtful, would we ask for the Lord to make our minds keen to sin impulses, and the Spirit to control us? Those whom He chooses to know and speak for Him He will faithfully nurture, correct, and refine. How committed are we to the ongoing, sometimes strenuous discipline of what Eugene Peterson called a long obedience in the same direction? What needs to be denied of self this day and set aside forever, so we want and see Jesus only, and can, without hindrance, follow Him?

Lord Jesus, wean me from every vestige of self, that in my heart and actions I regard and manifest You as holy. (1 Peter 3:15)

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