Deny Self, Not Self Denial

Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples. He said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must say no to themselves. They must pick up their cross and follow Me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it. But whoever loses their life for Me and for the Good News will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

Do you know the difference between self denial and the call of Jesus Christ to deny self? Self denial is a common practice of mankind. There need not be any religious association to it. People who engage in efforts to lose weight practice self denial. Athletes who place themselves under intense hours of training to win the gold medal practice self denial. A man or woman with a vision for a business may practice the self denial of sleep or time with family in order to make that extra sale.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these practices in and of themselves. But they are not to be confused with the denial of self that Jesus calls His followers to practice every day. Denial of self is the setting aside of my will, or my agenda in order to pursue and do the will of God.

The denial of self that Jesus speaks of is for His sake and the Gospel’s. “If you don’t go all the way with Me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve Me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Me, you’ll find both yourself and Me.” (Matthew 10:38-39, The MESSAGE)

Self denial is the “gospel” of the world of the unregenerate. Denial of self for the glory of God is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Self denial revolves around me. Denial of self revolves around Jesus Christ. When the church confuses self denial with denial of self, we end up with a “me-centered” generation of people who turn the church into a spiritual shopping mart that is for me and my needs, and the serving of Jesus into a matter of convenience. This kind of mentality is just as selfish as the world. (RAY VIOLA)

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