Now before I began on this subject, I must clarify that I do not by any means have this down as a fine art. In fact, it is something I daily must practice and have the Lord‘s help with. Many times I fail and instead of denying self, I let self rule. Yet, the Lord has put on my heart to share what He is teaching me.
“They took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) This verse began my search. For as I read it I thought of different people I know who just radiate Christ. This past weekend Eric and I had the privilege to visit with one of our professors and be in service with Him. The next day as I read this verse, I thought to myself, this man and His wife are some of these people who just reflect Jesus. As Eric and I drove home, we were talking about what makes these people so different? What do they do, not do differently? I told Eric that I believe that they saturate themselves in the Word. They think upon Christ and the things of Christ. They are filled with the Spirit and not self. Which then began my search of what does it mean to truly follow Jesus? Immediately the Lord brought to mind Luke 9:23, “ Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. As you can see, I couldn’t get past the first step. For the first step to following Jesus is to deny self. So then , what does this mean?
Sadly to say, we live in a culture that says put self first, do what makes you happy. Our children reflect this in their whining and complaining when they don’t get what they want. Yet, aren’t we the same way. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten the first step to following Christ. Even in church this has happened and we have taught the people that if you want to follow Jesus all you have to do is say a prayer, go to church and then live like you want. When in fact this is the opposite of what Jesus said. I once heard an illustration about the flesh versus the Spirit. The illustrator said that the one you feed will be the one that wins. Paul makes it clear that there is an inward battle going on within. That what He wants to do He doesn’t do, but that which He doesn’t want to do (Romans 7:15) The Lord makes it clear that if we want others to see Him in us, we must be filled with the Spirit and controlled by Him. Yet, we can’t be filled with the Spirit until we are empty of self, which brings us back to denying self.
So again I ask, what does this mean? I believe the answers will vary and not all be the same for everyone. Yet, the majority I believe will apply to all. Denying self then may mean going to bed early so that you can get up early to have a quiet time. It could mean not having that second helping when you know you are already full. Denying self may mean forgoing a tv show or movie that distracts your mind from the Lord, or to get personal it may mean spending more time reading books that inspire my walk with the Lord rather than just entertain. Another example would be biting your tongue and not saying what you want to even if you are right. Denying self means putting Christ first, others second and self last. Which quite honestly is about the opposite of what we usually do.
If I want others to see Jesus in me and for others to know I belong to Him, I must deny myself and allow Him to live fully in me. As I said I am a work in progress and so thankful that, “ he who began a good work in (me) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).”
“Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live because those who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14).”