The Art of Self-Denial

Matthew 16:24 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.

If you are like me, you don’t really like this verse. It’s sort of inconvenient and gets in the way of a lot of our personal agendas. Often times we come to verses like these and quickly read over them. I want to help us with the tendency to read over painful verses like Matthew 16:24 in this article. These passages are often the ones that contain the necessary revelation for God’s plans and purposes to come to pass in our lives. If we ignore difficult passages like these, many of the good things we are wanting to come to pass in our life will never happen because we will step out of God’s will.

I’m going to make it worse before I make it better. We will all end this article being encouraged, but I want to look at some of the tough stuff the Bible teaches so we can experience all of God’s plan for our lives. Look at Revelation 12:11:

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. 

Most people quote and even shout the first two portions of this verse! We get excited about the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony, but the part about not loving our lives unto death……That’s not so fun. Let’s pass ūüôā

I don’t like the idea of not loving my life unto death any more than you do, but the truth is as long as we are loving our own life more than loving God, we are essentially our own god. The bottom line is when push comes to shove we will serve ourselves. We’ll always put our interests in front of His. This will limit what God can do through us because He will often ask us to do difficult things in order to see miracles.

For example, think about Moses leading the children of Israel to the Red Sea. They had the Red Sea in front, were surrounded by mountains on two sides and Pharaoh’s army had them trapped from behind. It looked like God was about to kill all of Israel because of His really stupid plan. Have you ever felt like God was about to kill you because He had an apparently stupid plan where He asks you to do something really difficult? If so keep reading.

Moses’s obedience to God’s plan positioned the entire nation of Israel for a major miracle. When Moses cried out God parted the Red Sea and the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground. After the children of Israel crossed over, the entire Egyptian army was killed as the waves came crashing back down on them. If Moses wouldn’t have followed the plan and had taken the children of Israel somewhere else, the Egyptian army wouldn’t have been destroyed and would have chased Israel for decades. God’s plan works, we just have to follow it.

I teach a lot on the goodness and favor of God because it changed my life. Before I got a revelation of grace I was always trying to deny me, but had no clue how good God was so I had no power to obey. With all that said, we should never lose sight of the fact that there is one God and we are not Him. If He says jump, we jump. If He says move, we move. If He says don’t love your life unto death, don’t love your life unto death!

At this point, you may be reading this and thinking, “Ok Pastor Brian. I get it. It’s all about Him and me denying myself. God’s way, not my way. I’ve tried a thousand times in the past and failed. I’d like to deny myself; I just can’t.” If that’s how you feel, I want to share something encouraging with you!

The word deny in Matthew 16:24 is interesting. It means to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone. The only way to really follow after Jesus is to have no acquaintance with who we are after the flesh. The old man is dead and we are now a new creation in Christ Jesus. We have to deny and have no acquaintance or familiarity with our flesh. That’s not the real us; it’s just the housing where our spirit (the new creation part of us) lives. As we put all our focus on the new creation part of us and God’s love for us, we begin to live holier on accident than we ever did on purpose!

The art to denying ourself is knowing who we are in Christ and constantly receiving of Jesus’s goodness. This is why Galatians 2:20 says 20¬†I have been¬†crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the¬†life¬†which I now live in the flesh¬†I live by faith in the Son of God.

We don’t have to die to self. Our old man was crucified on the cross with Jesus. All we have to do it spend time with Jesus and the spirit of Christ will live through us! Change will happen effortlessly as we spend time daily in His presence!

I hope this article has encouraged you! If you’d like to learn more about your new nature in Christ, check out this message I taught at Grace Life Church. If you’d like to find out about what God can do through the life of a person who will surrender everything to Him, check out last week’s message called “Changing Our Expectations.” It’ll bless you!

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