And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luk 9:23)
Yesterday we looked at the idea of coming after Jesus. The fact is that as a Christian, he is the one we are to come after and only him. When he says “follow me”, he does not say “follow me and follow x, y, or z too”. But to follow him, we are told that we need to do something and that something is very hard. While there are distinctions between “deny himself” and “take up his cross” they are essentially the same thing: Death to your own will and faithfulness in that death.
When Paul wrote in Romans 12 that we should be living sacrifices, the worthwhile note is that the difference between a living sacrifice and a dead one is that the living one can crawl back off the altar and we are not to do that. We continue to sacrifice ourselves for him and his cause to promote the Kingdom of God.
To Deny something is to negate its existence or truth. Anytime you deny an accusation, you are in effect saying “it is untrue”. If you deny that your punched your brother or sister, you are in effect saying “it didn’t happen”, When Peter denied Jesus, he was in effect saying “that man is of no importance to me, I do not know him and have no association with him.” Another thing you say is that whoever brings that statement is a liar. They are wrong but you are right.
When we apply that to ourselves, the denial is more personal. It is easy to deny someone else or something they say or accuse you of, but how do you deny yourself when the survival instinct is so strong? Paul said in Eph 5 that “no man hates his own body but cherishes it” and this is true. Yet Jesus says we must deny ourselves.
It is to say “I do not exist”. Of course, one has to ask, if you say “I do not exist” then who is it that I am looking at? Who is it that is verbalizing that statement? I would like to suggest that when we deny ourselves that we begin to say like Paul said”
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
It is not that you do not live at all but that what life you have is dedicated to serving Christ, to being Christ like, to living the life Christ would live were he still here. To put it into today’s vernacular “WWJD -What would Jesus do?”
Jesus did the will of the Father and while on this world taught us to do the same. How does an American make sense of this denial of self? How does someone who has so much, say a nice warm house on a cold day, carpet, shoes on his feet, food in his belly and a laptop upon which to write a blog? I have not even touched the smallest of riches yet. Do we give it all up?
It could be necessary and yet we see rich people in the Bible all the time and I don’t think we can ever say we are not rich. But we do need to deny our own wants after we take care of (give thanks to God) our needs. While that may not mean that we will not have some luxuries perhaps, it does mean that we will not have as many.
The thing is that this denial of self is the gift you give God and since we know that everything we have is His anyway, then what we have is to be used part for us and part for God. We take care of our families and we do it wisely. (it is written) If we are wise, we save for the uncertain future but we never assume that our massive 401k will be enough to care for us or give us liberty to not serve God.
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Pro 30:8-9)
Here is a thought to consider: Abraham gave 10% and so did Jacob, both of these men living before the law of Moses which commanded the tithe. Today, Paul writes to give ‘as we have been prospered” and the amount is not specified. What God made into a commandment was for the purpose of supporting the Levitical priesthood and yet, we have a greater priesthood.
I will not tell you that you need to give 10% by way of commandment but might I implore you to consider that you are partakers of the better covenant and that if we want to be children of Abraham we do the work Abraham did? 10% might not actually be enough but it is a start. In a future blog, I will write about ‘what hinders us from giving 10%?’
When you give away to God 10% or whatever amount you give, you are in effect denying yourself (on the financial side, there are other aspects to deny in your life) and saying “Even though I could do much with this, I will trust God to provide my needs.”
Onward Christian Soldiers…Deny yourself and follow Him