“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (Luke 18:17).
In a nutshell, these two verses completely torpedo the common teaching of sanctification by obedience to the law of God. We naturally think “denying ourselves and taking up our crosses” means disciplining ourselves to do something that is really hard to do, like “be good and not evil.”
In reality, that verse simply means denying the natural impulse we all inherited to do the very same thing in which Adam and Eve indulged themselves at the Fall—to “be like God, (myself) knowing good and evil” (for myself, independently from God).
When one learns to live by ignoring this natural impulse within us and live by faith, he has learned to do just what Jesus told us to do: “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
However, ”Follow Me,” means following Jesus in “how to live” in this new way, not “what to do” as we follow Him. Our second verse in our introductory paragraph of this posting tells us that if we want to follow Him into His kingdom as we live this way, we will become as “little children,” of which Jesus Himself was our perfect example, and that has never changed. How and why that is true are explored in detail in the posting of several weeks ago: Our Model of an Adult “Little Child”
I believe there are at least three things we will find ourselves thinking and doing as we learn to live as “little children,” as Jesus tells us to do. Please do not succumb to our addiction and try to do these things, because they are impossible for us to achieve.:
1. I will know in my heart my Heavenly Father loves me. For those of us who did not have loving, caring earthly fathers, this seems impossible, but it is not: “Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). We “have need of patience” (Hebrews 10:36) to wait for our Father’s timing to give us the faith to believe. God is irresistibly at work in each of us, but a little child cannot know why or when God’s objective will be achieved; just that “Daddy’s got it!”
2. I will “walk in the light” with my Heavenly Father, eagerly and openly confessing my sin that the light is exposing. By setting aside my addiction, I can read 1 John 1:5-10 not as a punch-list of things I must do (“walk in the light,” “confess my sins,” etc.), to be a “good Christian,” but irresistible, unstoppable things GOD WILL DO, naturally, spontaneously and unconsciously in my life, that I cannot resist!
3. I will trust (believe, know) that my Heavenly Father is ordering my life explicitly in everything. A little child never lives his life by what he thinks is best for him or by deciding upon the best of two options (“I’d rather play in the street than in the yard, so I will”). No, he does exactly what his father wants him to do.
The glorious truth is that these three essentials—knowing God loves me, waking in complete openness and transparency, and knowing “Daddy’s got it!” in absolutely everything—all happen as I watch with incredulity as God does exactly this in my life, just as He says He will. What comfort! What peace! What joy!
I want to conclude with what has become, for me, the summary verse that is indeed “the straw that stirs the drink” of shaking my addiction and beginning to live in the freedom of “faith alone.” Study each phrase, as each is powerful, and none are “throw-aways:”
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).