According to Jesus Christ, following Him is an all-or-nothing proposition. There’s no halfway following.
He says several times, words to this effect: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
You cannot follow Him and follow yourself. You cannot be living a life after Him, if you are still living your old life you had before you knew Him.
These are not words just for super-Christians either. These are words for any believer. Any follower of Christ.
He says we are to deny ourselves.
Many have the idea that self-denial here means not eating that second piece of pie, or not buying Pearl Jam CD’s anymore.
But the word “deny” actually means denounce or disown. You don’t belong to you anymore. You’ve given up ownership over your life.
It’s a similar concept to Philippians 2:7 where it says that Jesus Christ emptied Himself (made Himself of “no reputation”). He was given a body, not to do His will, but the will of His Father who sent Him.
Paul describes Christ’s work like this: He who was rich became poor, so that we who were poor might be made rich.
Jesus Christ our Lord gave up heaven to humble Himself to suffer and die on the earth, so that we who were suffering on this earth might be able to live in heavenly glory with Him.
Self-denial is more than denying yourself fun and enjoyment. Self-denial isn’t necessarily mopey and depressed, long-bearded guy in a cave eating bugs.
Self-denial means doing what God says because you acknowledge that God made you and owns you–you were bought with a price.
For the new man created in Christ Jesus, doing what God says is not grievous. It might even be enjoyable. It might even include another piece of pie.
Then again, maybe you don’t get pie. I don’t know, it’s what you can do before God in faith. But simply skipping pie doesn’t mean you’re denying self the way Jesus meant it. It might mean you’re pride is dominating.
Self-denial is a way of life resulting from new ownership over your body.
Lay down your bodies as living sacrifices. Prove God’s will. You are not your own.