20 Jan 2012
What did Jesus mean when He instructed you to deny yourself? We are each at a denial intersection in our lives … we either deny ourselves out of our desire to follow Jesus or we must deny the idea that we are following Him. Jesus made it clear, to not deny ourselves is to not follow Him.
Matthew 16:24 (AMP)
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].
Encarta Dictionary gives this definition for deny: reflexive verb, to refuse to gratify your own needs or desires.
For most of us the primary issue in not understanding the definition of the word deny, but rather the more likely conundrum is the consistent courting of this coaching into our daily lives.
We seem to have built into our minds as standard equipment a secret magnetic force that constantly pulls us in the direction of seeking personal significance. If we somehow momentarily find the off switch it often appears to simply be on a slow timer and soon defaults back to the on position.
To amplify this secret magnetic force we find the more pervasive and powerful pressure from our “me first” culture that continuously clamors for us to take care of number one. From every corner of our culture we hear the loud and soft, clear and clandestine clarion call to pamper and cuddle and curry our every want and need. It is interesting how easily we can adjust these sometimes sophisticated self-centered mollycoddling modicums into the soft center of our “Christian” quest.
The reality from scripture is that we are to deny ourselves, in order that we might worship and serve Him ……. not ourselves! Jesus not only commanded us to deny ourselves, He provided the ultimate example. It may not, however, be possible for us to achieve the degree of denial demonstrated by Jesus, but without doubt, most of us have plenty of room to move in the deeper denial direction.
One significant source of hope is that Jesus commands us to deny ourselves. We know that what Jesus commands, He will provide a means by which we can accomplish what He has commanded.
The biblical idea of denial is not an isolated thought in Matthew Chapter 16. John the Baptist recognized the importance of this concept: John 3:28-30 (AMP)
28 You yourselves are my witnesses [you personally bear me out] that I stated, I am not the Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), but I have [only] been sent before Him [in advance of Him, to be His appointed forerunner, His messenger, His announcer].
29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the groomsman who stands by and listens to him rejoices greatly and heartily on account of the bridegroom’s voice. This then is my pleasure and joy, and it is now complete.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease. [He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.]
We can clearly see that John had his focus in the right place. This may be a helpful key in our application of denial of self, our focus. John, from the beginning of His ministry, placed and maintained his focus on Jesus Christ and His glory. For John, Jesus was not just the reason for the season; He was the reason for his life. For John, Jesus was his center.
Our secret magnetic force is positively prone to promote our position. Jesus knew of this problem and spoke to His disciples about how they might become truly prominent and powerful in His kingdom.
43 But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant,
44 And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for (instead of) many. - Mark 10: 43-45
The Apostle Paul later stated: Romans 12:1 (AMP)
1 I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
And again he exhorted ….. Romans 12:3 (AMP)
3 For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.
Finally, Paul in Romans chapter 12, again addresses the issue of our self-centered tendencies with these instructions; Romans 12:16 (AMP)
16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks. Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits.
These ideas fit closely with the first of four commands that God gave to Solomon in 2Chronicles 7:14 …… humble yourself. This is a point where we are all in this together. Whereas to humble myself is a personal private act, the state of the Church in America is significantly impacted by the collective humility of its members. We are one body. We live in one Nation. We desperately need one big Holy Spirit empowered revival. Will you deny yourself and pray? Will you daily humble yourself and pray and seek His face and turn from your wicked ways? If not us, who? If not now, when?