“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
I have been pondering the meaning of this verse this past week. Last night, the Lord burdened my heart to share with you what He’s been teaching me through it.
So many of us profess that we are Christians, but do we mean it? A “Christian” is one who is a follower of Christ. Do you realize that this three-fold command is given to those who truly desire to follow Christ? We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Do you see it? The way to heaven is by way of the cross. Yes, that’s it. We weren’t promised a carefree life of ease and prosperity.
The prerequisite to following Christ is denying ourselves! That is a hard one to swallow and harder yet to follow! Me? Deny myself? That is the word. That is what we are called to. Anything else is disobedience. The Greek word for “deny” is translated, “To affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone. To forget one’s self. To lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.” What then is self-denial? It is when we are so consumed with Jesus that self is disregarded.
We must say “no” to many of the strongest cravings of our natures. We must say no to earthly comforts, ease, dignity, honor, respect, and position. Self must die or Christ cannot be manifest in our life. We must relinquish every trace of me, myself, and I. That is the Scriptural mandate—“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but lit die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Life can only come through death. Let us ask God to bring us to the place where we can say with John the Baptist of old, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The more room we give to God in our lives, the less room there will be left for ourselves. We want the results, but are we willing to pay the price? The price is an all-out laying down of our lives on God’s altar, allowing Him to do with us as He will. Are we willing to let go of every hold on self and on this life? Are we willing to not just loosen our grip, but totally take our hands off and hold them behind our backs?
It is the poured-out life that God blesses. The life that heeds not itself… that is what God desires. Shall we not free it all gladly?
It is only as we are an empty vessel that we can be filled with Christ’s power and glory.
“Empty buckets are fittest for the well of grace.”
I want to share with you from a letter that I received from a young lady:
When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ—that is dying to self.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take all in patient, loving silence—that is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured—that is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any raiment, any interruption by the will of God—that is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown—that is dying to self.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances—that is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart—that is dying to self.
Dear Christian, may the Lord give you His grace to be empty vessels fitted and meet for the Master’s use!
—A Sister in Christ