March 4, 2018
What is involved in following the Lord Jesus Christ? In the gospel of Matthew we find a direct answer from Jesus. The Word says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (v24) In today’s lesson we are going to focus on the first command of Jesus and that is to deny yourself. What does it mean for you, a believer, to deny yourself?
1 Deny Sin
Sin causes us to focus on ourselves, shifting our hearts from God to self. The essence of salvation is an about-face from self-centeredness to God- centeredness. The Christian must spend a lifetime denying sin and self. Our great temptation will be to affirm ourselves while we follow Jesus. James and John did this when they chose to follow Jesus but then asked for the two most prominent positions in Jesus’ Kingdom. (Mark 10:35-37) James and John wanted a discipleship ministry that would not impede their personal desires and aspirations. Like them, we may say, “Lord, I want to be pleasing to you, but I want to call the shots of how I will live my life.” We know that the middle letter of sin is “I” and if we are not careful our lives can be invaded with personal and secret sins that are not pleasing to the Lord!
What secret sins do you harbor in your life?
What do you need to do to be able to deny sinful things and follow Jesus?
2 Deny Self
Self-centered people try to keep their lives uncrowded, undisturbed, safe, guarded, and secure. Our temptation is to give our time and effort to the goals and activities of this world. Then, when we are successful in the world’s eyes, we then seek to bring God into our world by trying to honor Him with our success. We may say, “Now that I have succeeded in business, sports, politics, my family life, civic affairs, recreational interests, and every other worldly thing, I want to give God the glory for it.” God is not at all interested in receiving second hand glory for our activity from you or anyone else. He is Lord of all creation and God receives glory from His will, purpose, and activity through our lives. It took me a long time to understand that my joy in life came through the presence of the Lord and not my selfish ways!
What are some of the things, attitudes, and actions that you need to pray about that reveal a self-centered lifestyle?
Do you have the wrong attitude that says everything must be my way or no way?
The world will continually pressure you to adopt its ways, goals, plans, and to invest in temporal things that have no lasting meaning at all. You must continually resist the temptation to pursue worldly ways and goals and then ask God to bless them. Rather, we must learn to deny ourselves and embrace and join in the activities and plans of God as He reveals them to us. The Bible says, “God opposes the proud but will give grace to the humble. Humble (submit) yourselves before the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in His time. Cast all your care upon Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5-7) God has an eternal plan for our lives as well as a daily plan for our lives. He wants to use us for His glory. Why not seek God’s presence every day and when you enter His presence submit yourself so that the wonderful and amazing things of God will be flowing through your daily life as a living testimony that you are a follower and disciple of Jesus! May the world not only realize that He lives forever but that He lives through you as well!