“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”/ Matthew 16:24
I’ve read and heard this verse so many times in my life and even more so in the past couple of years where Jesus has become bigger and bigger to me. The past couple of days this verse has taken on a whole new meaning to life and life with as a follower of Jesus. I’ve been faced with some exciting opportunities, some big decisions and the possibility of a lot of life change happening really fast. I’ve been spending the last couple of days visiting a church, checking out their ministry and interviewing for a position to be apart of their staff. I’ve had job interviews before and walked into plenty of new situations but this one was a whole new world to me. With marriage on the horizon and coming up quicker than ever, all the new things that go along with that new chapter of life, these last couple of days have held big implications for myself and my beautiful fiance Sarah. I give you all those details to give you a little better idea of why this verse has become so big. It’s been terrifying to be honest going through all this and anyone could say, “yeah pf course going through all of those big things would be.”
I learned quickly the biggest reason behind the scary in this was ME. When looking back at every piece of fear, the word “I” was the root of the fear. Playing the pro’s and cons game trying to be level headed in this decision, almost every con started with “I”, “I don’t know if I’m ready to step into a new situation, I don’t know if I have what it takes to make an impact in the area of ministry I’ll be serving in.” Different things like that, a whole bunch of “I’s.” Then not only fear but pride also played a big role, and guess what word was at the beginning of that, the root of my pride, “I.” “I feel like I’m prepared for more, I think I can do more than this position entails, I think I’m ready for more.” Can you see the reoccurring theme in all the con’s and doubt, “I.”
Think about your life, your current situation or your big decisions, honestly even the little decisions like going out of your way to talk to someone, be a friend to somebody or whatever it is. Think deeply for a second and look at why you haven’t done the things that God has told you to do, why you haven’t taken the little steps of faith and the big leaps of faith into what God has perfectly placed right in front of you. Now be honest about it, what’s holding you back from all the MORE that God has for you and that He’s divinely placed in front of you? The word I comes up a lot doesn’t it??? Yep. I say all that because it’s more evident now more than ever that the majority of steps of faith I don’t take in my life, whether with personal bad habits, sin strongholds, decisions, and opportunities to serve others in a way that may change their life. Whatever it is, little or big, “I”is always at the root of my regret, at the root of my doubt and failure, “I” is the biggest problem for all of us humans because that one letter word “I” holds so much power in our lives. “I” is the root of what’s holding us back from taking that next step of faith, to make that decision that we’ve been putting off, the decision that can change the course of the rest of our lives and most importantly as followers of Jesus Christ, “I” completely hinders and hurts how we follow Jesus in our lives.
Of course the day I’m stuck in my “I’s” the worst, this verse came up as the verse of the day on the Bible app yesterday. Pretty cool how God works things together. Jesus says, to be his disciple, DENY YOURSELF. I’ve spent a lot of time getting caught up in the other parts of this verse because they sound really cool to do, “take up your cross and follow me.” But look what Jesus says first, before any talk about following Him. The first thing He says is to DENY SELF. Looking at it in the view of all the “I’s” in my life and the power they have to hold me back from ever moving forward following Jesus. It make sense why Jesus says this first, because following Him is near impossible when you are battling following your “I’s” and self. Denying oneself changes everything. Jesus knows that the moment we get our weak, doubting, prideful, sinful, and fearful selves out of the way, that’s the moment we change that “I” to “He.” When living out of what we got, what we think we’re capable of and how we see things, talk about some low living, regret filled, sad lives. When we realize that we don’t have to use “I” anymore because when we came to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior and that personal relationship with Him was established, we died to self just as Jesus died on the cross and Jesus raised us to new life as one with Him, no more “I” just Jesus.
Jesus says “deny yourself.” Deny your I. In this new life with Jesus we don’t live playing the odds, counting the chance of success, or asking the question, “can I do this?” With Jesus we live off faith, we move off faith, we make decisions out of faith, we walk in the fullness of life and the MORE that God has prepared for us off of faith. Not faith in “I”, faith in “HE”, Jesus Christ. The coolest part of Jesus calling us to be disciples for Him and following Him is He gave us the biggest most powerful, life-changing, chain-breaking, risk-taking truth to embrace this life as a disciple. DENY YOURSELF. Jesus wants nothing more than for us to live in the fullness of the life He’s given us and point others to Him so they too can live life with Him. Jesus tells us “DENY SELF” because “I and self” is the biggest chains holding us back from walking in the freedom He’s given us. When our faith is not in ourselves but in who we are with Jesus, who He says we are, born again children of God, those chains are gone and we’re set free to just live, have fun waking up everyday and making the most of what God has for us, instead of getting torn up and worried because our “I” problem, we can just live, take risks, have peace that even if we make the wrong decision, even if we fail, that’s okay because Jesus doesn’t only give us life, He gives us an abundance of grace where He forgives us, picks us up, renews our mind and hearts back to Him and His ways, and moves us forward.
Denying self changes everything about how we follow Jesus. If “I” is the root of why you are where you are today and why you feel stuck to move forward, don’t let it hold you back any longer. Give yourself, doubts and fears to Jesus and He will show you how to move step by step, as His disciple, following Him. The biggest lesson about denying self was my perspective on this situation and in a lot of my life, when we are so focused on our insecurities we miss out on seeing the goodness of God and how’s He is so perfectly putting you in the best situation to grow, live, and move into the MORE He has for us. It won’t always be easy but from my experience with this, don’t waste your days letting the incapability of yourself clutter your perspective and vision in what God has for you, the divinely orchestrated parts of His plan that knocks on your door saying “Hey you, child of God, lets roll out of this weak life and roll with me, leaning on my strength, my hope and my love moving into a life where impossible is not even a word, faith is the gasoline that fuels you, and where LIFE can be embraced with Jesus and lead into others receiving this same LIFE.” It’s crazy how everything changes when we deny our selves and live in the truth of who we are, children of God. The scariest part of this is how easy the “I” problem can sneak up on you and hold you back from what God has in store for you but we have His Word to remind us that life doesn’t have to be lived that way any longer.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves”
Prayer: ” Lord thank you for this truth and this powerful instruction you have given us. It’s truly amazing how everything is flipped upside down and changed when we get ourselves out of the way and come to beginning of you. Thank you for loving us to the point of giving up your Son as a sacrifice for us, thank you for giving us a way out of the life that we deserved to die on the cross and giving us new life with you! I ask Lord that you teach us how to step out of the comfort zone of our “I’s” and move into the MORE and fullness of life that you have for us. Teach us how to live off faith in you, and deny ourselves Lord so together as children of Yours, we can step out in faith, just live and enjoy this life, open our eyes to see your goodness and perfection being worked out in front of us and move our eyes from our own imperfection. Help us Lord be disciples of you and help us take up our cross so we can live humbly as tools for you to help others see you working through every area of our lives and help others see you so they too can experience the awesomeness and love in a life with you. Thank you Lord for today. Thank you for the gold found in your word and continue to renew our hearts and minds with your truth and help us apply these truths to our lives! Love you Lord! In your holy and precious name we pray, Amen.