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A few years ago, I had the opportunity to have a quiet retreat in a very special place: The Western Desert of Egypt. You might have heard some places described as a “thin place”. It might be a particular church or property or even a region. There is no doubt that the Western Desert is a thin place.
That is, it is a place where the “veil” that separates us from the spiritual realm is very thin. Another way to say it is that the Western Desert is a great place to seek God’s presence because He seems to be particularly near.
That is because women and men have sought God in this region, sometimes in isolation and often in monasteries, for centuries. They have lived lives totally dedicated to God and many have been martyred over the centuries as a result of the ebb and flow of anti-Christian sentiment.
During my short retreat, I wrote three brief devotionals which will be posted over the next few days.
Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself…”
Self-denial is the cornerstone of spiritual growth. Jesus emphasized it again and again:
Luke 9:24: For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Mat 18:9: If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.
Luke 14:26,27: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
There is no doubt that our brothers and sisters who live lives of deprivation and persecution have an “advantage”. Each and every day presents them with the contrast of following Jesus or choosing a life of greater ease and freedom from threat. The choice before them is often stark and obvious. As a result, they cannot and do not escape Jesus’ demand that they should deny themselves daily, take up their cross and follow Him.
We, who were born into more comfortable circumstances, where our faith does not make us vulnerable to persecution, battle with a mortal enemy who attacks us with stealth and subtlety. The Apostle Paul refers to this enemy as the ‘old self’. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—“ (Romans 6:6)
The power and subtlety of our self is such that we can succumb to its demands again and again, choking our new life in Christ—unless the Holy Spirit comes to our aid, exposing self and enabling us to put it to death. Pray for the Spirit of Jesus to shine His light into your life, revealing the old self where ever it is at work.
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