Having covered the top ten teachings according to the frequency with which Christ taught (seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’). We are now continuing with the additional teachings of which there are 83. The next of these additional teachings is to ‘deny yourselves’.
We have lost the art of self-denial
In this western world of materialism, we have lost the art of self-denial. Every conceivable thing is on offer to make our lives more comfortable and to satisfy every possible whim and desire of our tongue and heart. As imports from China have made all things cheaper this has meant our homes are crammed full of products and things we now call necessities that 20 years ago we called luxuries. We are bombarded with advertising for this product, that product. We are told to ‘treat ourselves’ and ‘pamper ourselves’.
With the growth of internet shopping – whatever our heart’s desire is only a click away and at our door by next day delivery. But do these things add value to our life? Has not the adrenaline of that purchase left us by the next day? Do we not find our houses and therefore our minds cluttered with things we don’t really need. Studies show that we only wear 20% of our wardrobe at the most. In the UK we throw away £13 billions of bought food every year. Then consider all the extra things we have stuffed away in cupboards, lofts and garages. We have become a nation of excess. Whatever we desire, we get. We find it difficult to deny ourselves.
What of our life-style choices?
But this just covers the excess of buying and owning. There is also the area of our lifestyle choices. I am tired and on my way home and can’t wait to get my slippers on and put the kettle on. I see an old acquaintance struggling with some shopping as I drive past her. Do I stop, turn the car around and help her or pretend I haven’t seen her, after-all I do feel tired? It’s the kind of choices we make each day whether to go against what our flesh is screaming for, to deny it and do the alternative thing or not. But it also comes down to our bigger choices in life. Our flesh may want us to go one way – but God says no go another.
Jesus said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
He goes on to say, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it”.
If we are prepared to deny ourselves, then we will be saved
So in those daily decisions, whether small or big, of surrendering to our fleshly wants we are actually trying to save and preserve our own lives. But Jesus clearly states that a lifetime of this means we will actually end up losing our lives. But if we are prepared to deny ourselves then we will save it.
To be a follower of Christ is not for those who will wimp out at every opportunity. But for those who are determined to lay down their own lives and take up the cross. The cross was a symbol of death. It was the apparatus of Jesus’ death. Jesus is saying that we need to put to death our fleshly desires and be willing to go where He leads in all our decisions.
We must learn to endure hardship
Henry says – We must accustom ourselves to all instances of self-denial and patience, Luke 9:23. This is the best preparation for martyrdom. Christians must live a life of self-denial, mortification, and contempt of the world. We must not indulge our ease and appetite, for then it will be hard to bear the toil, and weariness, and want, for Christ. We must accommodate ourselves to daily affliction and comply in the will of God in it. We must learn to endure hardship. We frequently meet with crosses in the way of duty. When they are laid for us, we must take them up, carry them after Christ, and make the best of them.
We must prefer the salvation of our souls before any secular concern whatsoever. He who preserves his liberty and estate, his power or preferment but denies Christ and his truths, willfully sins against God. He will be an unspeakable loser when profit and loss come to be balanced. He that will save his life upon these terms will lose it, will lose that which is of infinitely more value, his precious soul.
To cleave to Christ brings an unspeakable advantage
We must firmly believe that, if we lose our life for cleaving to Christ, we shall save it to our unspeakable advantage. For we shall be abundantly compensated in the resurrection of the just when we shall have a new and eternal life.
If we should fall in with the interests of the world, and forsake Christ’s calling. The resulting eternal loss and ruin of the soul would be the poorest of all exchanges that ever was, Luke 9:25. If we gain all the wealth, honour, and pleasure, in the world, by denying Christ, yet by so doing, we lose ourselves to all eternity and are cast away, what good will our worldly gain do us?
The soul can be happy though the body be greatly afflicted
In Matthew and Mark there was a dreadful issue is a man’s losing his own soul, our souls are ourselves. Animus cujusque is est quisque—The soul is the man. It is well or ill with us according to whether it is well or ill with our souls. The body cannot be happy if the soul be miserable, but the soul may be happy though the body be greatly afflicted and oppressed in this world. If a man has a penalty put upon his soul by the righteous sentence of Christ, whose cause and interest he has treacherously deserted. If it be declared a loss of all his blessedness, where is his gain? What is his hope?
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
May we be those who are willing to take up our cross and follow Christ wherever He would lead. That our souls be secure for eternity and that we may bring many sons to glory with us.
On the Royal Way of the Holy Cross Take the way that leads to the Kingdom Never become dismayed. Take up the cross now. What reason have you to be afraid? For in the cross is salvation, In the cross is life, In the cross is defence from enemies, In the cross heaven’s sweetness is rife, In the cross is strength of mind, Joy of spirit, yet lowliness, In the cross is highest virtue; Perfect holiness. There is no salvation for the soul nor hope of eternal life Except in the cross. Take up your cross then and follow Jesus, You can incur no loss, For He went before you carrying His cross And on that cross died for you So that you should carry your cross And die a death on the cross, too. So now if you share His death, His life you will also share. If you are with Him in this suffering You will be with Him in His Glory beyond compare. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, forgive me for trying to save my own life and for pandering to the whims of my heart. Convict me and lead me to the taking up of the crosses you lay before me each moment of each day. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.