Christian Universe TM
Deny Yourself, And Follow Me
February 08, 2009
Jesus told His followers to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily, and walk in His footsteps. His walk took Him home to Heaven, by way of the cross. We should not be surprised if our own paths are similar. We must not fear death, but must prepare for it. We must be ready to lay down our lives, or use our resources, for the salvation of others. This is what Jesus did, and we follow Him!
Deny Yourself, And Follow Me
By Bernie Parsons
Presented to Globe church of Christ on 02-08-2009
In our last study, we discussed that we must not only talk the talk of righteousness, but also to walk the walk of righteousness. Today, I want to follow up by discussing the path that we choose to walk when we become Christians. Jesus said:
Luke 9:23: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25: For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
26: For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.”
I spoke last time of walking where Jesus walked. Jesus said that if a person will follow Him, he must deny himself and take up his own cross, and walk where Jesus walked. We know that the journey of Jesus took Him to heaven, to sit at the right hand of God. We also know that His journey to heaven went by way of the cross. He was first executed as a common criminal at Calvary before He arrived back in His heavenly home.
Jesus told His earliest disciples that men would think that they were doing God a favor by killing them.
John 16:2: “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
3: And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
Those who are not Christians tend to distrust Christians, and sometimes fear them. They want to persecute Christians, and in some countries and religions, would like to kill all Christians.
Matthew 10: 21: “And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
22: And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
23: But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
24: The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
25: It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
26: Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
27: What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
28: And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
If Jesus was counted the prince of devils, it is no surprise that they shall call His followers evil. We see that a lot these days, as those atheists and non-believers attempt to paint Christians as evil, hateful, and bigoted. Jesus told those of His time, who were going to be persecuted, and even killed, not to fear their tormentors.
Philippians 1:27: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
28: And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.
29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;”
We are not to be terrified by those who would terrorize us. We must trust God that His plans will be carried out correctly. He will do right by us. If that means that we must die for His name’s sake, then we are to live our lives full of faith of our eternal salvation. We must understand that God has a plan for our world, and for us, and that His plan is bigger than each of us, or all of us.
When Jesus said to take up their crosses and follow Him, He told His followers to deny themselves. That clues us to the nature of what it means to be a Christian. We live in a materialistic society where the emphasis is on living for the pleasures of the moment. Everyone wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” This is the opposite of what Jesus taught, “Deny yourself!”
When we recall the main two commandments, which are universal, we see that what Jesus said falls under the umbrella of those commandments. Think on this: when one part of a person’s body is injured or in trouble, the rest of the body switches its resources to heal or save the part of the body that is in trouble. So it is in the body of Christ – the church. When one is hurting, all must respond to repair the damage to the one who is hurting. In doing this, we divert our own resources to help the one in trouble. In this, we deny ourselves, putting the other person first.
1 Corinthians 10:24: “Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.”
Galatians 6:2: “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
Romans 12:10: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11: Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12: Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13: Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”
On a personal level, we must deny ourselves when others are at stake. This is what Jesus did when He went to the cross for us. He denied Himself to save us. In a like manner, we must be prepared to lay down our lives for our friends.
John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
On a less sacrificial level, but just as important, is meeting the material needs of others.
1 John 3:17: “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
18: My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
How can we say that we will lay down our lives for one another if we will not share material goods with our brothers and sisters in need? Sharing is a form of denial of self.
Another form of personal denial is forgoing something that is ours for the benefit of another. Paul did this when he refused payment from the Corinthian and Thessalonian churches. He took financial aid from other congregations and individuals to allow him more leeway in trying to whip those two congregations into spiritual shape.
1 Corinthians 9:4: “Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5: Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
6: Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
7: Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8: Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9: For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10: Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12: If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.”
The apostle Paul also wrote that he made himself like the people among whom he labored, in order to win them to Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:19: “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
20: And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
21: To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
22: To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
23: And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”
He also gave the following advice regarding putting our own desires on hold in order to influence others for better:
Romans 14:13: “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
14: I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15: But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.”
Romans 14:19: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20: For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21: It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22: Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23: And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
In following Jesus, we must deny ourselves. We take up our instrument of persecution, even execution. We may have to lay down our lives for our friends. We will have to share our material wealth with our brothers and sisters. There may be occasions when we will have to leave off something that we normally would do or enjoy in order to persuade someone of lesser knowledge or faith to do the right thing.
Let us deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus.