“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me… whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospels will find it.” Mark 8:34-35
In his classic book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis compares being good through the power of the natural self to paying taxes. Conscience and culture make demands as to what “good and acceptable” behavior is, so we submit to them with the hope that after we have met those demands there will be time left over to do what we want to do. We pay taxes because it’s our duty, but we mostly think about the money we’ll have left over to spend however we want to.
“The Christian way,” he maintains, “is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, ‘Give Me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’
“Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, ‘Take up your cross’ – in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute He says, ‘My yoke is easy and My burden light.’ He means both. And one can see why both are true.”
We don’t have to try to change the old self; it must die. As we embrace this death, we are absolutely free to live in the resurrection life Jesus abundantly provides through the Spirit.