—Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34
It may be comparatively easy for a man in a moment of enthusiasm to "renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all the carnal desires of the flesh," and to imagine that he will no more follow nor be led by them; but it is very difficult, and perhaps impossible to persistently demonstrate this act in the life, until he has acquired a knowledge of the laws which govern these things and has evolved the power to deal with them. If his heart’s affections are set upon things above, and all his treasure is in heaven, he will search until he finds out how to effectively overcome his lower nature, and by practice will acquire understanding and power. But if his interest is absorbed in earthly affairs and delights, these will put out from his consciousness that which is incorruptible and eternal.
In order that he may the more willingly relinquish them, let him observe and reflect upon the activities of the lower nature, noting especially how unsatisfactory they are. They manifest in all those operations of the consciousness by which pleasure and pain are experienced. Pleasure and satisfaction are always sought; but however enjoyable the objects of sense may be for a time, their end is always painful and vain. It is in accordance with immutable law that action and reaction are equal, and this is demonstrated in all gratifications, without exception. But when a sufficient number of painful experiences have been connected with a particular course of action, and remorse is at last keener than the pleasure afforded, then it is said that conscience forbids, and the lesson has been learned. With the exception of such cases in which the conscience intervenes, the mind is dragged down from its proper position as pure understanding, and sinks into desire. Selfishness has nothing to offer, finally, but suffering and unrest. Therefore all the Great Masters have taught, in one form or another, that self-denial is the only way to a realization of joyous liberty and peace.
Yet it is very difficult for man to give up those things which he selfishly loves, while they are sweet to his taste, and only by cultivating single-mindedness will the sting of this renunciation be extracted. When the all-absorbing purpose in life is to attain self-mastery, and devotion to the Christ is pure and steadfast, then, however sharp maybe the pang of relinquishment, it is, by comparison with the joy of having transcended a limitation, trivial. But this attitude of mind cannot be jumped into. No lesson in life may be skipped. The man must commence by gaining control of his temper, and when he can remain calm in the most trying circumstances, he may proceed with the more difficult tasks which the student has to accomplish. The right doing of theses will give him confidence and courage. Organizing his mind, the understanding will be intensified, and knowledge will enable him to do the work with the least possible waste of energy.
As he becomes efficient in the art of mental-control, (remaining steadfast in the pursuit of that divine perfection to which he aspires,) he will so acquire power that his whole being will respond to the dictates of the Higher Good. All that he needs, in rich profusion will be laid at his feet; the dawning of satisfaction and a, profound peace will be realized; and then a sense of utter unworthiness will melt his heart. Feeling that although he deserves nothing, all things are his, the little personal self will be cast off like a discarded garment; and this complete renunciation will remove the hindrance to a full and glorious expression of Divine Love.