Following Jesus Means Self-denial
“Then He said to them all, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).” Here, Jesus tells us that you do not only need deliverance from sin but also deliverance from Self. So then, Jesus died on His cross to save you from your sin, but you must die on your cross to follow Him. This is what Jesus had in mind when He told a group of Greeks who came to Jerusalem for the Passover: “...unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain (John 12:24).” This means you must forsake your life to get into His life and that requires self-denial. It means that your growth and fruit will come about as you crucify your Self. So it is not by self-assertion or by self-will, but only by dying out to Self that your roots go down in brokenness and humility, and that your spiritual branches spring upwards.
Instantly after conversion, you quickly discover that there is an enemy within you...something withinyou that does not want to die, that does not want to go with you on this new journey of forsaking your old life. There is something within you that does not want to take time to go to prayer meeting, to witness for Jesus in public, to break up ungodly relationships or to abandon harmful old habits. You also discover that there is still a critical, murmuring, judgmental and self-seeking spirit within you. The Apostle Paul calls it: “...the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2)” which is the spirit of Satan. It is also called the Self, the flesh, the carnal nature, the Adamic nature, and the old man.
Again, as soon as you are saved, you will discover that this Self within you protests and resents every step you take in following Jesus. You will notice a battle raging within you of the flesh against the Spirit. And that is why Jesus said that for you to stay with Him, you will need to take up your cross daily...This means that we must continuously resist and crucify the sinful nature whenever it raises its ugly head. This is why Paul said, “...I die daily (1 Cor. 15:31)” Remember, it was only a few seconds of not keeping his heart that took David into adultery; and it also took only a few seconds for Peter to deny his Lord. The Self within you will continue to choose the ways of convenience, of least resistance, of avoiding conflict and of seeking popularity. The way of the cross is not like this and it is generally despised by men, yet applauded by heaven. It is the only way to true happiness.
Take note that every morning the Self (and the devil) has plans for you that day, but so also does your Lord because the Bible says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…(Psalm 37:23)” Which plans are you going to pursue? Who are you going to follow? Is it “your kingdom come” or is it “God’s kingdom come” that matters to you? Is it "your will be done" or "God's will be done?" To whom will you turn over the control of your life from now on, to the old man or the new man?
The Self may want you to go to the wedding of a friend, but Jesus may want you to visit and pray with someone in a hospital. Are you going where Jesus wants you to go and have His anointing, or are you going where self wants you to go without Jesus and without His anointing? The Self may want you to buy a new television, but the Lord may want you to help a missionary in Africa with that finance. The Self may want you to work on a project at home, but God may need you to repair something at a widow’s house. My friend, be encouraged because every time you deny Self and obey god, you will receive the joy of the Lord as your reward. Once you begin to obey consistently, you will have a continual stream of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit flowing into your heart, refreshing you and others likewise. Praise the Lord!
Self-denial is the first step towards obedience allowing you to do the will of God. And nothing else matters in your life but finding and doing the will of God: nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. Jesus said, "Behold, I have come - In the volume of the book it is written of me - To do Your will, O God (Heb. 10:7)" That was His mission and He fulfilled it: and now it is time for you to let Him fulfill that mission in you. Let the Holy Spirit live in your body as He lived in Jesus' body 2000 years ago. The first Adam lost paradise by disobedience, the second Adam (Christ) regained it by obedience. May the Lord grant you the grace to obey Him in every future moment of your life.
Because self-denial opens the way to obedience, it is the queen of all disciplines. It is the giving up of one thing to gain another. For you as a Christian, it means giving your all to get God’s all. Say “yes” to self-denial. Armies cannot win without self-denial. Athletes must embrace it to win their trophies. Graduate schools look for students who live by self-denial. Airlines will only hire pilots who exercise it. All significant advancements of mankind have originated from men who have embraced self-denial, and a Christian cannot be a Christian without continually exercising it.
Only the self-denying Christian can have unbroken fellowship with Jesus. There is no room for a servant of Jesus Christ to engage in self-indulgence, or to get side-tracked by having his life cluttered with matters outside the perfect and acceptable will of God.
Faith engages the heart (Romans 10:10), but self-denial and obedience engage the will. Engaging the heart without engaging the will makes you fall short of having fellowship with your Savior: the heart grasps for the things of eternity; the will engages you into those things. Therefore, Jesus taught us to pray: "...Your will be done (Matt. 6:10)" and He also said: "...whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother (Matt. 12:50)."