Chris' Corner -- Sunday, August 29, 2021
"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. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24, 25).
What all does this self-denial entail? We find the answer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed very intently for the cup of suffering and sacrifice to be taken from Him. His next thought was, "...nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Jesus willingly denied His own will for God's. Therefore, Jesus tells us self-denial involves everything included in the will of God.
In the final words of Hebrews, the writer said, "Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20–21). He follows in verse 22, urging us to endure the exhortations presented by the Holy Spirit in the book.
Self-denial is not just controlling fleshly desires (Galatians 5:24; 1 Corinthians 9:27). Self-denial requires we conform to everything God has commanded—including religious activity.
It is evident from looking at the religious practices of those around us; many folks don't think self-denial has anything to do with their religious doctrine. From the beginning of time (remember Cain), we can see how people like their "own will" in religion.
In Colossians, Paul admonishes his brethren, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (2:6–8). He then talks about some things people do in the name of religion and concludes, "These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion…" (2:23).
The ideas emphasized: "walk in Him" means to conduct one's self by the person (Christ) who furnishes the standard of living; "rooted and built up in Him" is to render firm, establish, be thoroughly grounded and build upon; "established in the faith" is to make firm or sure; "as you have been taught" speaks of the doctrine or teaching that is instilled.
Denying ourselves is laying aside our will (personal ideas and desires) for the will (teaching and doctrine) of Christ. Our mind, soul, heart, and devotion should be to Christ. But here's where the conflict lies. People love will-worship because it comes from their own minds and hearts. "I like it. Therefore, I do it." All such worship (and daily living) is condemned and worthless.
Jesus told the self-willed Pharisees, "...Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:6–9).
If anyone will come to the Lord, let them "deny" themselves (or deny their own will) and learn what the Bible teaches them to do (in all things) to be pleasing to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.