One of the most striking aspects (at least in my opinion) of our society is its love of self, its promotion of the individual, and its total fascination with personal comfort and convenience. Awhile ago, I was feeding Rosie in a room where MTV's Cribs was playing, and I was amazed (though not too surprised) at the lavish mansions where people live: their own gyms, their own movie theater, refrigerators for every adult in the house, etc.
One of the most fundamental aspects of following in the steps of our crucified Savior is the principle of sacrifice. He said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me"(Luke 9:23). Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24). When Paul gives instructions to Timothy about who the church should be helping, he explains in 1 Timothy 5:6 that the widow "who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives."
Are we sometimes like the rich man in Luke's account who is pictured as feasting sumptuously every day while turning a blind eye to the hungry Lazarus at his gate?
We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. A grand thought, but what does that look like for us today? Perhaps denying ourselves some treat, or even a meal. Perhaps denying ourselves sleep for the sake of more time in prayer. Perhaps it's spending more time encouraging our brethren and less time pursuing our own hobbies. Perhaps it's denying ourselves the luxury of daydreaming about (unmarried) romantic relationships. Perhaps it's simply turning off the TV or the computer to spend time developing real relationships with others, even if that proves to be a difficult work laden with disappointment and sacrifice. Perhaps it's finding brethren in need to share our money with, instead of saving it up for something we want. Perhaps it's just simple, small distasteful duties done with a cheerful attitude, as unto the Lord.
There are many good things to enjoy this side of Heaven, but none worth pursuing to the point of distraction or obsession. Don't let food, or friendships, or Facebook, or any good yet earthly thing take the place of God in your heart and in your life. Is there temporary pleasure and gratification in these things? Yes, but only as a pale shadow of the joy we find in following Christ. We can find true and deep satisfaction as we invest in our relationship with God and His people. My favorite verse to meditate on recently, Proverbs 19:23: "The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied."
Our goal is not poverty, or starvation, or a life devoid of enjoyments. Rather, our goal is this: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control.