Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflections on denying oneself (Luke 9:23) with an observation about desire from Socrates.

SCRIPTURE: Luke 9:23 (NIV)
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

There's a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge." Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, "What do you want?" "Knowledge, O wise Socrates," said the young man with a smile. 
Socrates put his strong hands on the man's shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" he asked again. "Wisdom," the young man sputtered, "O great and wise Socrates." 
Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. "What do you want, young man?" Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, "Knowledge, O wise and wonderful..." 
Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?" "Air!" he screeched. "I need air!" 
"When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge." 

What is the one thing that you desire more than anything else? Recognition of this one desire will determine ones course through life. It has to be #1 above everything else. We cannot allow it to take second place to anything. It has to be first and foremost in all of our thinking. Once we identify it then life takes on new meaning.

Piously individuals will usually say, “A relationship with Jesus,” until they are put to the test. Like the young man who came to Socrates wanting knowledge above all else until Socrates held him under the water for a long time. If we were in the same place as that young man what would be our response?

Thinking of that one response then consider Jesus’ admonishment to deny ourselves – placing all of our wishes and wants at the bottom of our desires … pushing them further and further down until there is nothing left except our relationship with Jesus.

Removing self from the equation is tough. We are driven people. We are driven by our appetites for food, sex, recognition, health, and safety among just a few things in this life. Experiment of sorts is to ask ourselves when faced with one of our many driving forces can I, should I, would I forgo this appetite and turn to my relationship with Christ?

Maybe it was this kind of thinking which drove the Desert Fathers, the hermits of old, to live such an austere existence. To place everything behind them so that nothing mattered except Jesus. Is it something that we could do? Or, do we love our creature comforts that much? Denying oneself is a lot harder than it first appears.

The internal struggle Lord consumes us. On the one hand we want you more than air itself, but on the other hand there is so much of this life that we really love. Lead us this day so we can understand more completely what it means to follow you. 

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