cartoon: opportunity knocks

The cross is a symbol of the necessity of death. When the bible says that Jesus died, it was all of him who died, not just the weaker parts. All. There wasn’t a golden nugget of goodness that was protected and preserved from death. Even his righteousness died. Death is total.

This means that we are all invited to this total denial of self. At the root of our beings, the core of our minds, is this constant never-ending drive to protect the self which fuels all that we think and do. Until we recognize this and allow the cross entry into even the basest elements of our selves, into our homes where we are most comfortable, secure and desiring, we will never know freedom and the beauty and power of a resurrected life.

Get my book. It also has commentary on many of the cartoons.

"Nice vid David - hilarious! We'll miss you and wish you all the best! (and ..."

nakedpastor’s goodbye video to patheos
"Good idea! I look forward to exciting developments at your own site. I like Patheos, ..."

nakedpastor’s goodbye video to patheos

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Lynn

    I’m gonna speak up and say your post reminded me of sermons I’ve heard, where I did not understand what they were saying. It all seems very vague, where people can make it mean a particular thing, try to figure out what you are saying, feel guilty that they are doing something wrong by being warm, dry, comfortable in their house, enjoying their family, food.

    Maybe I’m missing your meaning, and my negative mind is twisting it into the wrong meaning. But I’m hearing that Jesus died on the cross, and that we are therefore invited to a total denial of self. What would that look like for regular people who go to work every day and read blogs? I don’t understand how to apply what you seem to be saying.

    I’ve observed that most of the time, people find it hard to even be a little kinder than they naturally are to others-much less a “total denial of self.”

  • lynn: i’m sorry. you’re right. partially. it is christian language, which sometimes i can’t help using. but if you are at all familiar with any spiritual tradition, especially the major ones, or any spiritualities worth their salt, then you will know that they all talk about denial of self. right? that’s what i’m getting at. i’m not talking about conversion to jesus or anything like that here. and when i say “into our homes” i don’t mean literally… i mean into our comfort zones. hope that helps.

  • Gregg

    I think this would make a great T-shirt!

  • That made a lot of sense. It reminds me that as we move closer to Christ we move farther away from the illusions and attachments of self and the world. Thank you so much.
    Many blessings during this season and into the New Year.

  • Lynn

    Thanks, David. I’m all for preachers asking people to try to be a little nicer to others, a little more generous, a little less self-centered. It will make the world a better place, and make you feel useful also.

    Pushing people a little to get beyond what they’re comfortable with can be good too.

    Of course Jesus certainly required more than being a little nicer, so I can see where the family would be wondering if they really want to open that door-what will be required of them?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t see people living their lives in anything remotely like “total denial of self.” I don’t see the average Christian doing that or the average pastor. Or the non-Christian either. The only time I think most people go to an extreme self-denial is if their child or other loved one is in great danger of some kind.

    And I’m not picking on you, but how can pastors say these things yet they don’t live it either? And what is “it?”

    Anyway, just discussion. Thanks for explaining a little more.

  • I kind of see what Lynn is getting at; *I* certainly don’t live out total denial of self . . . but I do think it is a goal worth striving for, and I just wanna say, in my best churchy way: “Preach it!” 😉

  • hey: i will be careful in the future to be less christianese in my posts. i appreciate your feedback.
    No we don’t live up to it. but admitting that is the beginning of it. imo

  • Lynn

    Can you give examples of “total denial of self?” I think if we get more specific and concrete, we’ll know more what we’re talking about.

  • ttm

    I like Lynn’s questions. I struggle with them, too. Was Jesus death a denial of self or an acceptance of self? And did he live a life of self-denial? What exactly did he deny himself?

    Does self denial mean having no goals, no boundaries, no expectations, no desires? Does denial of self mean that anything or anyone we like or love, we must give up on an altar of unselfishness? Does denial of self mean that other people have a free pass to tell us how to live because we cannot allow the whispers of our own inner selves to guide us?

    What is “the self”? What is “denial”?

    Christian churches (at least the fundamental ones I’ve attended) have been quite adept at deconstructing the ancient jots and tittles of Scripture only to reconstruct vague mottos that everyone repeats and claims to live by but no one can explain to those who ask.

    Perhaps the answer is that there are no answers.

  • james

    I hate this concept of self-denial and I think it does alot of harm and – is more associated with death then with life.

    I was brought up in a church that were big on telling me to deny myself, not deny temptations, but to deny self…. I denied myself so much i forgot who I was!!

    It has taken me a long to get a handle on this and I have since taken many years in the serach of who I am. Thomas Merton reminds us that we can’t deny ourselves until we know who we are – which can take a life time.

    I think God is more intersted in helping us to discover who we are, to accept who we are, to love who we are, then we can truly be a gift to others.

  • james: I appreciate your input. i agree that there is a lot of negativity and abuse associated with this. however i think there is truth in it. not only do we have to rid ourselves of all that is not “us”, but i think we have to acknowledge that even our most basic self-concept of “us” must be challenged.

  • james

    David, i can’t agree with you on this one. Many people’s self-concept is fragile. Rather then being challenged, I think people need to be accepted, affirmed and loved. From within this envirorment people are more likely to change and become who they are and may-be who god intended them to be.

  • many people’s self-concept is false. which is why it is fragile. that’s what i’m talking about. we are essentially good. i agree.

  • Lynn

    “many people’s self-concept is false. which is why it is fragile. that’s what i’m talking about. we are essentially good. i agree.”

    I like this. Plus what James said about being accepted, affirmed, and loved.

    I was taught the opposite of all that at church. I was taught self-rejection-nothing good about self. I was taught the heart was wicked above all things. That type of thing.

    So coming out of hearing that all your life, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re to aim for total denial of self.

    I also like what ttm said. In other words, what does the phrase actually mean? Would we know it if we saw it?

  • Johnfom

    “This means that we are all invited to this total denial of self.”

    Umm, no it doesn’t. What it means is what it says, that Jesus died, every part of him. If you want to impose this meaning on it I have no problems with that, but you’ve taken a bit of a leap in saying ‘This means…’ and I don’t think I follow you there.

    Totally agree for many of us there is a ‘never-ending drive to protect the self’ and also that there is a glorious freedom in resting from that drive and letting someone we trust past the defences with permission to modify, or heal or dismantle or even to affirm our hidden selves. To face our worst fears (annihilation of self) and come to the other side of it still having a self is the most extreme adrenaline rush.

    Isn’t a description of relationship? We let our family, our friends, our counsellors past the defences protecting our self and pray they don’t do damage. How much more dangerous is it letting someone who has the power to extinguish us? And by consequence, how much more glorious to continue beyond the encounter?

    So yeah, I follow the discussion, I just can’t see how Jesus’ death, or the cross, is supposedly the invitation for us all into it.

  • what i mean by that johnfom is that when jesus says “take up your cross and follow me”, this is what he would have meant.

  • james

    In following the discussion I think my reaction is towards your understanding of the cross, it is harsh and blunt and leads to the ascetic. I just do not relate to it the way you do – different concept! I don’t beleive that this the old way of ‘cross’ talk helps people change. The Cross was an instrument of death but I think as a symbol it represents wholeness with it’s different dimensions in which the celts were able to expand on its significane.
    My interpretation of the’deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’ verse goes like this.
    ‘deny yourself’ – let go of the image that you are seeking to present to the world, seek to take off the mask, find authenticity – a very frightening thing for many people.
    ‘take up your cross’ – accept your true self, your whole self, the parts you like and the parts you don’t like at the moment. The cross you bear is yourself – get to know it. “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” – T. S. Eliot
    ‘follow me’ – when you are true and authentic – then you can follow me – be like me.

  • Lynn

    I looked up the verse about taking up your cross. I think Jesus may have meant it literally-follow me in death. Only in Luke is the word “daily” stuck in there. Matthew and Mark don’t have that word.

    Was he saying-let’s all go die together and be together in paradise? If that’s not what he’s saying-how do we know that?

  • Rhonda Sayers

    My thought was, why did you show the cross knocking at a house with a family inside, instead of just an individual?

  • Looks like the climax of a horror movie.

  • hey rhonda: it was simply a drawing issue. i found it easier to show fear when there was more than one person. that’s all. but i did think of the dynamic of one versus a family. good observation.

  • Lynn

    Actually didn’t Jesus say something about hating your family? And that he came to turn family members against each other?