As Christians, we aren’t called to abandon our individuality or our intellect. When we let go of who the world says we are and trust in who we were created to be, we are freed to expand our minds beyond our personal limitation.
When we talk about “denying” ourselves it can sound like a ridiculous idea. If we deny ourselves then who are we?
Denying ourselves isn’t about denying the things that make us unique, it’s actually the opposite. When we deny ourselves and embrace the essence of who we were created to be, our uniqueness is amplified through embracing the image of the one who knew us in Him before the creation of the world.
Jesus himself said in Luke Chapter 9, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” The beginning of true discipleship is the denial of self.
Without a denial of self, we stay enslaved to the selfish desires of our flesh. If we want to be freed from all of our sin and the darkness that surrounds us, we must let go of who we think we are and bloom into the truth of who God says we are.
Living In Denial
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
Not only is denying yourself the initial step to being a disciple of Jesus, it also is true worship of the Lord Almighty.
A denial of self breaks us from the self-centered focus of the world into the selfless sacrificial way of life that was displayed by Christ.
Jesus said in John 15, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Not only should we be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, we should also be willing to lay down who we think we are at the feet of Him who knows us better than we know ourselves.
When we believe in Jesus, we are transformed from the inside out. We need to put off the old and put on the new self and grow up in our salvation to become more and more like His image, the image we were created to be.
In Isaiah Chapter 14 it says, referring to Satan, “You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
The key word we see here is “I” this is the nature of Satan, a self-serving, self-centered, existence which leads only to death.
This is the nature of the world, but it has been overcome through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. When we turn towards Him, our eyes are open to the truth of our existence and the truth of How to live life the way God intended man to live.
Through prayer and reading the word, we can see the Lord’s will for our life, a life of freedom and purpose. A life everlasting. In a world filled with confusion when it comes to identity, the truth is found outside of ourselves, it is found in Jesus.
Take Up Your Cross Daily
When many people come to this part of the scripture, they think of some sort of baggage or burdens that we should be picking up daily when we follow Jesus. But Jesus’ had a much deeper meaning when he said this and at the time, it was a much more obvious meaning that it may be to the reader today.
At the time when Jesus said this, everyone who heard knew what he meant. He was referring to crucifixion. He was saying that those who follow Him need to be willing to put it all on the line daily.
Crucifixion was more than just execution. It meant being willing to be shamed, to suffer, and to die. Those who were crucified were not only flogged beforehand but they would hang naked on the crosses for days, using every bit of strength to lift themselves up enough to breath before they would eventually suffocate to death. It was torture.
Jesus said that those who wanted to follow Him had to be willing to face this every day. Not only to be willing to endure persecution, but also willing to die to one’s self.
It really comes down to faith; if you believe then this is a sacrifice you will be willing to make because you know that what is to come is worth it at any cost. You become willing to love everyone, to sacrifice for everyone, to put yourself last. Though becoming a servant seems like it means complete restriction, it is the most freeing thing you can do.
Jesus said it has to be a daily willingness. This comes down to each hour and each decision we make. Living this kind of selfless life is only possible when we are in Him.
Jesus Himself became our greatest example of this. Not only did He live a servant focused life, He laid down his life for those He loves. Not only did He lay down His life, He picked up a cross and carried it to His execution.
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 1:22-24
When we follow this example, we can be an example to others. Either at work or school or maybe even at church. It is a daily commitment to follow our Lord and Savior.
Follow His Lead
Jesus not only became the greatest example of what he preached, He even left us with someone to teach us and guide us into all the truth, the Holy Spirit.
Before leaving, Jesus promised His disciples that He would not leave them alone. That He would go to the Father and send another advocate to help them and be with them forever. This promise of the Holy Spirit is a promise that remains true to this day for all who believe.
Jesus said in John, that everyone who sins is a slave to sin but if the son sets you free you will be free indeed. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Not only do we sin, we live in sin until we come to Jesus. This sin corrupts us, defiles us, and keeps us from a relationship with God.
Jesus lived a sinless life and though none of us can follow Him in that respect, if we believe in Him and turn towards Him, our sins are forgiven and we become Holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
As we read the word and allow the Spirit to guide us through the truth, we renew our minds and begin to see our true purpose. Through prayer and time in the word, we become more and more like Jesus. This not only affects our lives but the lives of those around us.
Denying ourselves for the lives of others is the most loving thing any of us can do. It puts us last, takes the focus off of our wants and needs, and places them on others.
For those whose only hope is this world and this life, the idea and putting yourself last may seem hard to understand. But when we put our hope in eternity, believing and knowing that our true reward isn’t in this world but in the one to come, we begin to see that denying ourselves and following Jesus is the most rewarding and awesome way anyone can live this life! To Him be the glory and power forever and ever Amen!