In the last couple of blogs, we discussed how Mark’s Gospel shatters worldly images of God, and replaces them with the truth. In Shattering Images – Discipleship Part 1, we looked at the Markan Jesus’ first passion prediction where Jesus told the Apostles that discipleship involves both cross carrying and self renunciation. It focused on the principle of carrying one’s cross, and today, we will focus on the principle of self-renunciation.
In Part 1, I mentioned that these discipleship principles were not about suffering for the sake of suffering. In fact, these requirements are cobble stones on the path to God. Let me see if I can explain.
The need for self-renunciation, which is the same as the requirement to die to self, is rooted in the story of Adam and Eve:
The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Gen 3:6
When one looks at this scripture, one sees how Eve made a decision based on what the body wanted, she saw the good, found it pleasing and desirable. She took the fruit, and ate it. Desiring the fruit was not evil. What was evil was acting on the desires of the body against God’s mandate. Eve should have stepped back, reflected on God’s moral code, and exercised the will in favor of obedience.
The thing is, we continue to do the same today. We see worldly goods, we desire them, and we exercise our will in favor of what the body wants. How often do we make choices because “I don’t want to” or “it feels good”? How often do we exercise the will in favor of things that limit our ability to live a more spirit-filled life?
The thing is, the body is not bad. It desires good, but when we feed it the lesser good of created things, we deprive it of the greatest good, which is God himself. The body sees and appreciates the goods God created for the benefit of humans, but in feeding it what it wants, the body becomes a slave to such desires.
By depriving the body of what it wants, we basically go through withdraw so we are free to see the greater good of God. In fact, when we control what we we feed the body in regards to created goods (using them in moderation and the like), we make room for spiritual goods; heavenly treasures.
In addition, through practices that help us die to self, we actually free ourselves to participate in the divine life. We see this in 1 John 4:16, which tells us that God is love, agape, self-giving love. By learning to live selflessly, we begin to live in union with him. However, we have to remember that we can only become Agape by living with him, in him, and through him. It is living a life in humble cooperation with the indwelling Holy Spirit that we become true participants in the life of the divine. What could be better than that?
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit reflecting on your discipleship practices. How are you living a life of self-renunciation. Do you invite the Holy Spirit into your efforts so as to supernaturalize them? Are your practices of self-renunciation about dying to self so you can live in Him? Can you see the fruit of such practices? Are you becoming agape? If not, just ask him to show you what you need to do to perfect your existing efforts so that you might live a more full life in participation with the divine.