“He (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34
We are currently in the season of Lent, the 40 day period of preparation leading up to Easter. People of faith give up all different types of foods and activities during this time period each year. Some choose things that are easy and won’t really be missed. Others choose things that will not only be missed, but will at times seem unbearable to go without. Either way, it’s a defined period of time and then we often go back to our old ways.
It’s good to change things up at times. It helps us draw closer to God in a different way so we can refocus on Jesus and our relationship with Him. I encourage you set aside time at Lent and other times of the year to refocus, rededicate, and remember that He is enough. His grace is sufficient.
But I do believe there is a difference between these occasional denials of self and the lifestyle of denial Jesus refers to. Here are three ways we can experience those differences.
- It isn’t what you choose, it’s what He says.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15a, 17
Sometimes what we choose to give up is surface level and shallow behaviors or activities. We focus really hard on not doing these things and then are relieved when our time is up. But often, God wants to get to the stuff behind the behaviors and activities. He wants to go deeper and not just change what we do, but change our hearts so we do things differently choosing His will over our own.
- It isn’t for a limited time, it’s every day of your life.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
We don’t acknowledge Jesus just to walk away going about our business. We stay. We remain in Him and continue to do the things He shows us to do. We will continually be challenged to give up the things we want, the way we react and respond, the way we think about and see others. Denial is a counter-cultural lifestyle change that continues and does not end.
- There is no going back to the old way. The old is gone, the new is here.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
In Christ, you are no longer the same person you were before knowing Him. When you go back to your old ways, you don’t deny yourself, you deny Him and why He came. You can’t follow Jesus and do things the old way. You may try for a while, but eventually, you will go your own way. You will no longer be following Him.
We are called to deny ourselves daily for the sake of the One who called us to Himself. His love is seen and experienced best when we allow ourselves to get out of His way. Choose today to deny yourself and acknowledge Him.
Something to Consider…
Do you want to follow Jesus, but are unsure of just what it means to deny yourself? As you spend time in His presence reading His Word, rely on the Holy Spirit to show you the things He wants you to get rid of from your life. He will help you move forward in a new way.
Do you know what God’s Word says and yet, you are doing what you want satisfying your own desires and ignoring what He says? God loves you and it’s in remaining in Him, doing what He says that you are able to follow and experience the benefits of His presence in your life. Choose to not just know what Jesus says, but deny yourself and do what He says.