One of the hardest things you’ll ever do on your journey of faith is deny yourself. But you cannot “take up your cross” or “follow Me” unless you first deny yourself. Self-denial is in stark contrast to the world’s system, to the way the world thinks. The world is obsessed with labels and identifications of “self”. The world wants you to define yourself, yet Jesus said to deny yourself. What does that mean? To “deny yourself” doesn’t mean to “deprive” yourself of things you want. It’s not an act of the will to resist temptation or deny yourself things you desire. That is self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) Self-denial is a spiritual discipline that must be developed within your soul, not within your flesh. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Jesus said in Matthew 16:26.
If you try to define yourself rather than deny yourself, you are walking away from what God has called you to be, who God has called you to be and you’ll lose sight of why you need a Savior.
You might gain the world when you define and identify yourself according to the world’s standards, but you will lose your soul. What does that mean? If you try to define yourself rather than deny yourself, you are walking away from what God has called you to be, who God has called you to be and you’ll lose sight of why you need a Savior. Jesus noted in Matthew 16 that if you truly want to follow Him, you must deny yourself – first – before you do anything else. In Galatians 5:24 Paul wrote, “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.” What does that mean? It means stop defining yourself. Deny who you once were, deny the labels of other people. Deny how you feel about yourself. Deny the names you’ve been called. Deny the definitions and diagnoses you’ve been given. Deny the labels you’ve given yourself because of your mistakes, regrets, your past, your feelings and experiences.
The journey of your life must be on the road of faith, which means even when you don’t feel it, you still believe it. (2 Corinthians 5:7) Even when you feel the definitions creeping back into your soul – addict, abuser, abortion, cheater, divorced, criminal, mean, idiot, ugly, stupid, retarded, worthless, useless, fat, lazy, selfish, gay, bitter, alone, depressed, unworthy and more… you must lift your soul to the Lord in prayer and in worship and deny yourself. This is the very reason why Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) If you truly want to follow Jesus, you must first deny yourself.
Thought for today
You cannot follow Jesus in the fullness to which He has called you if you are still in control, and part of that control is that you are still labeling yourself and defining yourself. God cannot do a new thing in you or through you if you refuse to let go of the old things! Deny yourself. This might be a day by day, moment by moment process for you sometimes, but you must persist. The more you deny yourself, the better able you’ll be to “take up your cross” and “follow Me” as Jesus said. Forget gaining the “fortunes” of the world’s approval. Jesus said you’d lose your soul in the process. He died to save your soul! So, start today – shake it off and move forward. Then, when you hear those definitions and labels speak again, silence them again through worship and prayer and meditating on the Word, on what God says about you. Deny yourself. Ask the Lord to show you who you really are!