How does one deny themselves as Christ commands?

Hi, Matthew

In Matthew 16:24, it says 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. How does one deny himself? It sounds very, very hard.

Thank you

Lawrence

Hi Lawrence,

Your question is so profound, and it goes right to the heart of the gospel. A lot of people when they first hear this command of Jesus think that it’s calling us to repress everything about who we are and follow a bunch of rules to pretend like we’re a religious person.

But it’s not about that at all. It’s about denying our ability to rule our lives. At the heart of our sin is the desire to make ourselves God. We want to do what we want, and we don’t want to be subject to any higher authority. We even want to save ourselves, and try to earn our way to perfection. The problem is: we can’t. We’re deeply flawed, and we fall hopelessly short of God’s standards.

So God calls you to deny yourself as the ruler of your life, and instead follow Jesus.

Is this hard? On one level, yes! It goes against our very deepest instincts and our sinful desires to control our lives. That leads to suffering—it hurts to pick up our crosses. It hurts to reject our sinful desires.

But on another level, it’s very easy to do. We don’t have to perform or accomplish some great task for God—we simply acknowledge that we never could, and that we need him to come and give us new life.

The best part? When we let go and give our lives to God, we actually become our true selves! The very next verse 25, Jesus says: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We find out that God’s plan was better after all, and we gain the abundant life that Jesus promises. Nothing could be better than that!

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