- No, I won’t stay in bed.
- No, I won’t have ice cream for breakfast (at least not routinely 😉 ).
- No, I won’t lash out when I am hurt.
- No, I won’t provoke my children to wrath.
- No, I won’t disregard my testimony and circulate gossip.
- No, I won’t take the easy route.
- No, I won’t demand my rights.
- No, I won’t ignore the dirty dishes and the fact that I can’t walk through the living room without stepping over things.
- No, I won’t skip my morning exercise.
- No, I won’t ____________ simply because I don’t feel like it.
Each day is filled with scores of occasions for self denial. How do we do it “right”?
One of our favorite sets of commentaries is by Jamieson, Faussette and Brown’s, and on Luke 22:40ff it said the following, which I thought was really powerful regarding Christ’s role as our mediator in this contest of our wills:
40. the place–the Garden of Gethsemane, on the west or city side of the mount. Comparing all the accounts of this mysterious scene, the facts appear to be these: (1) He bade nine of the Twelve remain “here” while He went and prayed “yonder.” (2) He “took the other three, Peter, James, and John, and began to be sore amazed [appalled], sorrowful, and very heavy [oppressed], and said, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death”–“I feel as if nature would sink under this load, as if life were ebbing out, and death coming before its time”–“tarry ye here, and watch with Me”; not, “Witness for Me,” but, “Bear Me company.” It did Him good, it seems, to have them beside Him. (3) But soon even they were too much for Him: He must be alone. “He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s-cast”–though near enough for them to be competent witnesses and kneeled down, uttering that most affecting prayer ( Mark 14:36 ), that if possible “the cup,” of His approaching death, “might pass from Him, but if not, His Father’s will be done”: implying that in itself it was so purely revolting that only its being the Father’s will would induce Him to taste it, but that in that view of it He was perfectly prepared to drink it. It is no struggle between a reluctant and a compliant will, but between two views of one event–an abstract and a relative view of it, in the one of which it was revolting, in the other welcome. By signifying how it felt in the one view, He shows His beautiful oneness with ourselves in nature and feeling; by expressing how He regarded it in the other light, He reveals His absolute obediential subjection to His Father. (4) On this, having a momentary relief, for it came upon Him, we imagine, by surges, He returns to the three, and finding them sleeping, He addresses them affectingly, particularly Peter, as in mark 14:37 mark 14:38 . He then (5) goes back, not now to kneel, but fell on His face on the ground, saying the same words, but with this turn, “If this cup may not pass,” &c. ( Matthew 26:42 )–that is, ‘Yes, I understand this mysterious silence ( Psalms 22:1-6 ); it may not pass; I am to drink it, and I will’–“Thy will be done!” (6) Again, for a moment relieved, He returns and finds them “sleeping for sorrow,” warns them as before, but puts a loving construction upon it, separating between the “willing spirit” and the “weak flesh.” (7) Once more, returning to His solitary spot, the surges rise higher, beat more tempestuously, and seem ready to overwhelm Him. To fortify Him for this, “there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven strengthening Him”–not to minister light or comfort (He was to have none of that, and they were not needed nor fitted to convey it), but purely to sustain and brace up sinking nature for a yet hotter and fiercer struggle. And now, He is “in an agony, and prays more earnestly”–even Christ’s prayer, it seems, admitted of and now demanded such increase–“and His sweat was as it were great drops [literally, ‘clots’] of blood falling down to the ground.” What was this? Not His proper sacrificial offering, though essential to it. It was just the internal struggle, apparently hushing itself before, but now swelling up again, convulsing His whole inner man, and this so affecting His animal nature that the sweat oozed out from every pore in thick drops of blood, falling to the ground. It was just shuddering nature and indomitable will struggling together. But again the cry, If it must be, Thy will be done, issues from His lips, and all is over. “The bitterness of death is past.” He has anticipated and rehearsed His final conflict, and won the victory–now on the theater of an invincible will, as then on the arena of the Cross. “I will suffer,” is the grand result of Gethsemane: “It is finished” is the shout that bursts from the Cross. The Will without the Deed had been all in vain; but His work was consummated when He carried the now manifested Will into the palpable Deed, “by the which WILL we are sanctified THROUGH THE OFFERING OF THE BODY OF JESUS CHRIST ONCE FOR ALL” ( Hebrews 10:10 ). (8) At the close of the whole scene, finding them still sleeping (worn out with continued sorrow and racking anxiety), He bids them, with an irony of deep emotion, “sleep on now and take their rest, the hour is come, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners, rise, let us be going, the traitor is at hand.” And while He spoke, Judas approached with his armed band. Thus they proved “miserable comforters,” broken reeds; and thus in His whole work He was alone, and “of the people there was none with Him.”
His resolve seemed to come in waves, much like ours. I find great consolation in the fact that the Savior struggled with this. How is that possible, when He was fully God as well as fully man? I don’t know. But I am relieved that it is true. Who can explain completely what it looked like to work through having such a complete dual-nature? I can’t imagine; but I know it was necessary, not only so that He could be the perfect sacrifice, but also so that He could be the perfect high priest.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Heb 4:15
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:16
Because He knows, I can go to Him in absolute confidence. I will find grace on any occasion where I have to say no to myself. He said “not my will” for me. He said “it is finished” for me. This hymn text by pastor friend Chris Anderson at Church Works Media captures the truth and wonder well:
In Eden’s bliss we walked with God
Unhindered by the curse.
Yet we rebelled and were expelled—
Estranged; alone; perverse.
Two mighty cherubs barred the path
To Eden’s holy place;
No more could men, now stained by sin,
Behold our Maker’s face.
Beneath the Law we sought the Lord
Through sacrifice and priest.
One time each year one man, in fear,
Sought God with blood of beast.
Still mighty cherubs blocked the way
So sinners could not pass—
In curtain sewn, on golden throne,
They stopped the rebel fast.
Then Christ appeared to clear the way
To God for sinful man;
Fulfilled the Law without a flaw—
Our Temple, Priest, and Lamb.
Astounded cherubs stepped aside;
Each hid his flaming sword.
With nail and thorn the Veil was torn;
Draw near through Christ the Lord!
In Jesus’ name we boldly come
Before the throne of grace.
With empty hand, in Christ we stand
To seek Almighty’s face
Till saints and cherubs join in awe
Around the Savior’s throne.
With one great voice we will rejoice:
“All praise to Christ alone!”
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