Deny Your Self and Take Up Your Cross


Matt 16:24-27

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his practice (Gk praxis).

You perhaps would have noticed that the last word of this text was changed so that it reads…

“…and then he shall reward every man according to his practise.”

instead of the more familiar reading…

“and then he shall reward every man according to his works”

The Greek word more commonly translated as works is the word, praxis, which can also be translated as practice. The concept of practice is much more helpful for us as a support for living a spiritual life than the word works, in that it provides a slight change in emphasis from thinking of a reward tied to the works we have banked over the course of our life to the concept of the actual mode of life we have cultivated and made our own. In the light of this, the word translated reward would be better translated as render as in “…He shall render every man according to his practise.”

Reward carries the idea of receiving something in recognition of positive efforts and is based in the idea of having earned or merited something and so is inconsistent with what the Heavenly Doctrine teaches regarding the spiritual life. Render on the other hand is more neutral, having more to do with the notion of receiving what is due as a logical outcome of an unfolding process. So the word render better reflects the operation of spiritual laws that govern a process of rendering something down to its essentials. This places us in front of the idea that we shall all be rendered down to our practise, in other words we become our practise. Spiritual laws dictate that we become whatever our practise or lack thereof makes us. So the question before us is, what is our practise, and how shall we fare or rather how will we respond when, “the Son of Man comes in the Glory of His Father with His angels”?

This coming of the Son of Man isn’t a future event but an ongoing spiritual unfolding in the here and now. This is particularly the case for those who are engaged in intentional inner work with the Word. The term “Son of Man” means the Word, being that through which the Lord comes to all who look for Him within it. Those who receive the Word are those who seek to practise it with the intention of living from it through exercising the spiritual disciplines of self-examination and repentance. You see to reject the Word has nothing to do with what we profess we believe, even devils are capable of acknowledging that the Word is true when held back from their phantasies. In Logopraxis to accept or reject the Word is a matter of whether we are willing to practise it through applying its truths to the inner life of our mind or not.

If we accept that the quality of the life we come into is a reflection of our practise then it’s reasonable to assume that the practise of the Word will take a high priority in our life. The quality of our spiritual life is directly linked to our willingness to use truths from the Word to examine the quality of our inner mental life with a view to shunning the evils we find there as sins against what the Word teaches.

When a person shuns evils as sins he or she daily learns what a good work is…. Cease therefore, from asking in yourself, “What are the good works that I must do, or what good must I do to receive eternal life?” Only cease from evils as sins and look to the Lord, and the Lord will teach and lead you. AE 979:2

Did not the Lord preach repentance? Did not His disciples also? and John the Baptist? Isaiah declares that a man must first cease from evils, and that then he will learn to do good [Isa. 1:16, 17]. Before this a man does not know what and of what quality good is. Evil does not know what good is, but good thence knows evil. Charity 26.

Let’s take a moment to consider the terms being used. Terms like repentance, evils, and sins. There is a current of thought that holds that such terms evoke wrong associations in people, or at least associations that may risk the casual hearer/reader to reject the Word’s teaching all together. And this may well be true for the casual hearer/reader who has yet to be initiated into a spiritual practise but within the sphere of Logopraxis these terms represent, amongst many other supposedly archaic terms found in the Word, a precise language that accurately describes what’s involved in the spiritual life. It should be pointed out that the Word itself provides the definitions through which its terminology is to be understood. In Logopraxis we look to affirm in our own experience through using truths to examine our mental life the truth of what the Word teaches. The best way to do that is to work from a clear sense of the terms and their meanings as defined in the Heavenly Doctrine.

In practise by evils are meant what truths reveal to be opposed to the heavenly life. Anything that inhibits our ability to receive the inflowing life the Lord provides by twisting it to serve the loves of self and the world is an evil. These evils are to be removed through conscious acts of repentance in response to “the Son of Man coming in the glory of His Father with His angels.” For the Lord comes as the light of the internal sense of the Word, with His truths or angels to reveal the quality of our states of mind. Our response to these truths as they challenge us will reflect the form of life we are choosing to make our own through our practice. The following passage from the Heavenly Doctrine illustrates how our responses in this life to the Word continue to form the basis for our life in the spiritual world…

…no one in the other world suffers punishment on account of the evils that he had done in this world, but only on account of the evils that he then does; although it amounts to the same and is the same thing whether it be said that they suffer punishment on account of their evils in the world or that they suffer punishment on account of the evils they do in the other life, since everyone after death returns into his own life and thus into like evils; and the man continues the same as he had been in the life of the body (n. 470-484). They are punished because the fear of punishment is the sole means of subduing evils in this state. Exhortation is no longer of any avail, neither is instruction or fear of the law and of the loss of reputation, since everyone then acts from his nature; and that nature can be restrained and broken only by punishments. But good spirits, although they had done evils in the world, are never punished, because their evils do not return. Moreover, it is granted to know that the evils they did were of a different kind or nature, not being done purposely in opposition to the truth, or from any other badness of heart than that which they received by inheritance from their parents, and that they were borne into this by a blind delight when they were in externals separate from internals. HH 509

We see from this that what our life becomes for eternity is a continuation of the mode of life we acquired for ourselves in this world. Once we are separated from our physical body what remains are the essential patterns of affections and thoughts that have come to be established within us as our mode of mental life. These form our spirit and are given expression through a corresponding spiritual form or body. This spiritual law means that the quality of what we really think and feel, when all external constraints are removed, is who we essentially are. If there has been no effort expended over the course of our life to build a new basis for our life then we shall continue to live a life which is spiritually impoverished due to its unrealised potentials. Our spiritual potential is only awakened through conscious efforts to acquire a spiritual life. Such a life must be developed consciously through gathering and applying truths from the Word to life. It is clear from the opening verses that if we are to awaken to spiritual life it involves denying that self which has naturally developed without effort…

…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

The following numbers from the Heavenly Doctrine give us the inner meaning of the word cross…

The “cross” means temptations because the evils and the falsities therefrom that cling to man from his birth infest and thus torment those who are natural when they are becoming spiritual. And as those evils and their falsities that infest and torment can be dispersed only by temptations, temptations are signified by the “cross.” Therefore the Lord says, that “they must deny themselves and take up their cross,” that is, that they must reject what is their own, “their cross” meaning what is man’s own [proprium], against which he must fight. AE 893.3

…without [the] acknowledgment [of the Lord’s Divine, that all good is from Him] no one can abstain from evils and do good except from self and as meritorious good, for the good that is good in itself and that is not meritorious good is solely from the Lord; consequently he cannot be saved unless the Lord is acknowledged, and it is acknowledged that all good is from Him. And yet before anyone can act from the Lord he must undergo temptations, for the reason that the internal of man, by which he is conjoined with heaven, is opened by means of temptations… AE 893.3

Verses 24 and 25 of our opening text provide the general framework for what’s involved in a true path of spiritual development. If we wish to follow the Lord then it requires a conscious choice on our part to fight against the desire to delight in those affections, thoughts, and behaviours, we recognise as being opposed to what the Word teaches. This is what is meant by having to deny our self, or our own, or our proprium. To deny our self requires that we know our self and we cannot know our self unless we are instructed as to the nature of that self. Logopraxis offers a way of changing the basis for our mental life through supporting our efforts to live from what the Word teaches as opposed to living from the natural inclinations of the proprium. This is why we need to develop a regular practise of engaging with the Word.

…those have life from the Word who read it with the intention of drawing Divine truths from it, like water from the spring, and at the same time with the intention of putting them into practice in their lives. TCR 191

Logopraxis is a daily practice structured around an effort to draw Divine truths from the Word with the sole intention of putting them into practice in life which, as we see from the number quoted above, is what it means to have life from the Word. Divine truths from the Word are what provide the spiritual light needed if we are to gain insights into the quality of the inner life of our mind. To read the Word requires us to do something, but this reading must carry within it an intention to put what is drawn from the Word into practice in our life. This kind of reading is a reading for application and not merely a reading for information. In Logopraxis to read with intention is to read from the will, or from the affection for truth, so that we are consciously present to what we read with the aim of having the Word speak into our life and provide direction as to our inner work.

To read with this kind of intention requires us to bring conscious attention to our reading so that we are actually present to the act of reading. This requires the Logopractitioner to compel themselves to divide their attention so that they can be present to the Text as well as to the states of thought and affection that arise as they read. This is a totally different experience to our normal mode of reading during which we, as a conscious being giving full attention to our spiritual states is almost if not entirely absent. To read with intention takes work and is only possible if we make an effort to bring our attention to what we are doing.

Because reading with intention involves being conscious of our self in relation to the Text, and of being sensitive to the activity of our thoughts and affections, as well as the requirements the Text is asking of us, we find that we become much more aware of the nature and quality of our inner mental world. This is not only true as we engage directly with the Word but it is also true in external life. Through our work with the Word in Logopraxis we cultivate an ability to read the events, situations and circumstances of life in a way that lends support to our inner work.

The Word is vital in this regard due to the fact that it alone, being the Lord with us, stands as the only objective witness to our inner mental life and its quality as we respond to the text and external life events. Through the intentional use of truths to examine the life of the mind the specific evils that belong to our unregenerate self begin to become apparent. This is the point that the cross we have to carry, if we are to follow the Lord as the Word, comes into view. To pick up our cross is to consciously embrace the work set before us, in the spirit of, not my will but thine be done. This involves being willing to embrace temptation as a necessary part of the process by which the old proprial self is weakened and the new heavenly self is established in its place as our life.


About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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