- "The Least will be the Greatest" (Mark 9:30-41)
- "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses His life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39)
- "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (James 1:2-3)
- "as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything." (2 Corinthians 6:10)
These are obvious contradictions/paradoxes. Now there is another contradiction hidden deep in Matthew 12 verse 24:
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
This seems to demand of us the self-will to deny ourselves and resist temptation. However, anyone who tries this will find that in relation to the things that tempt them most they cannot do it; their will is not strong enough. So how can we meet this demand?
The answer is that relying on your own strength is a kind of egoism. And that egoism is principly what must be denied. You must deny that you have the strength and rest on the strength of God, not your own.
Andrew Murray explains this in his text "The Self-life: The Hindrance to the Spiritual Life" (which you can listen to below) but it has been understood in Alcholics Anonymous for years.
Step 1 is: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 3 is: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
In fact, the 12 steps of AA provides a perfect example for this contradiction - for an alchoholic to give up alchohol (which is clearly one the things that tempts them most) they must really want to give up - that is the extent of the power of their own will. But to actually succeed, they must not rely on their power or strength, but fall back onto God's. That is to say, they must give up the egotism that says they can do this on their own.
And that perhaps is one of the hardest and most deep lessons of Christianity, and I believe that is what is mostly meant by Jesus' admonition to anyone who wants to follow him to: "let him deny himself". To deny not only the temptation, but the very self (his ego).