Civil War infantrymen on both sides, but particularly the Confederates, tended to rifle-shoot and lob cannon shells above the heads of front-line troops. Lectured to aim lower, and practicing to aim lower, didn’t appreciably improve their accuracy. Studies after the War indicated that troopers burned 240 pounds of powder and hurled 900 pounds of bullets for “every single man actually hit.” Rebels and Yankees. William Davis, Editor, Introduction, p. 52
Being satisfied to make mortals moral, not converted, is like practicing to better hit the enemy. God has no interest in making us better people. He has nothing less in mind than transforming us from self-centered humans to Christ-focused disciples. He does that by demanding conversion from self-will to God’s will by a radical change called self-denial.
Now...the conscious self is as essential to humanity as the instinctive self to the creatures. The difference is: the animal kingdom will never have any but its instinctive self. While humans automatically pervert our conscious-self to the dominant-self, WE at the center of life. Which Jesus demands we crucify!
Self-denial isn’t complicated. It simply means we subordinate our conscious self to God’s will for our life’s decisions, perspectives and values. The idea isn’t hard. Implementing it and keeping it as our life’s goal is. That’s why Jesus made SELF-DENIAL a daily event, not a life-long aim. He knew that practicing self-denial at any time, during any day, would stimulate the human spirit to awareness of the Holy Spirit within us. Which would raise our awareness of the spiritual life, with its consequent diminution of the self-willed life. While never perfecting self-denial, daily practice in trying to, committing ourselves to, returning to if we abandon it, repenting of every effort to re-establish self as the center of life, would eventually mature us as Christ-focused, God-centered, Spirit-led disciples. Simply by shooting for daily efforts at self-denial.