Following Jesus: Denying Self

“I have decided to follow Jesus,

I have decided to follow Jesus,

I have decided to follow Jesus,

No turning back, no turning back.”

Those are the lyrics to a song I learned while in elementary school at Escambia Christian School in Pensacola, Florida. I still sing those lyrics 40 years later.  photo

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Yesterday, we published a chart diagramming Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-38, and Luke 9:23-27. Today we will explore more about what the statement that Disciples Deny Self implies in our daily walk with God in Christ.

One clear way to understand what Jesus meant by, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself .  . .” is to see what His immediate followers teach.

Peter was in the mix that day as Jesus spoke those words and he will tell his readers, Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1Pe 2:11).  The word translated abstain literally means to hold oneself off.

Think of it this way: You are on a low calorie diet to help lower not only your weight, but also your blood pressure, risk for diabetes, and to keep health insurance costs low. During this diet, you attend a business lunch catered by a company know for a great cheesecake. Cheesecake is your favorite desert, but it is off you current list of “allowed” foods. Everyone at your table is taking the desert, you reach for it with your right hand, but just as you are about to touch the desert plate, you grab your right wrist with your left hand and tell yourself, “No!” Then, using the strength in your left arm, you bring the right arm back from the desert tray (empty handed) and hold it tight against your chest. That is holding oneself off. That is abstaining. That is denying yourself.

Now apply that to other areas of our life: recreation, consumerism, pleasures, vices, television, entertainment, etc. How are we holding myself off?  How are we denying myself to follow Jesus?

Now consider these words from Peter, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1Pe 4:1-3). The word translated “ceased” comes from the word we get our English word “pause.” The concept Peter is teaching is a permanent pause from the things of the flesh.

The apostle Paul describes how he denies himself this way, “though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Php 3:4-7). Nothing matters as much as Jesus. He considers everything else loss or damaged goods a proverbial detriment to his spiritual life.

No matter what TV preachers say; Life in Christ is not about me or what I can gain from Him. To be a follower of Jesus, I give up my life, my things, my desires, my passions, my sin.

Jesus gets more specific and we will look at that the next time.


3 thoughts on “Following Jesus: Denying Self

  1. Thanks for mentioning the fact that many mainstream preachers today preach a message of what we can get out of our relationship with God. It’s not about what we get, although his gifts to us are great, but its about what we can offer to him and the world in gratitude for his grace.

    • Joe, are you sure you are not meant to be a preacher?

      Seriously, I appreciate your attitude and spiritual focus. Keep on serving God. You are a great leader and I see the day when you could serve as an elder in the church.

      Thank you.

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