“A Word for this Week” Pastor Bill Mugnolo: HARP Pastoral Advisor
Week of September 4-10, 2017: “Denying Yourself?” … Matthew 16:24
Imagine a newspaper ad for a church which read, “Come Deny Yourself Together with Us.” It would seem almost crazy for a church to advertise itself like this. But Jesus Himself spoke this way about following Him when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). As we consider our Lord’s “truth in advertizing”, what, then, does it mean to “deny yourself”?
Well, such self-denial doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy ourselves. Jesus Himself enjoyed food and drink at feasts and was wrongly criticized for doing so (Matthew 11:19). Nor does self-denial mean following after a long list of man- made “do’s and don’ts” (Colossians 2:20-23). Nor does it mean that if there is one thing that we really desire that will be the one thing that God will call us to give up. On the contrary, He looks to give to us our heart’s desires (Psalm 20:4, 37:4).
What self-denial does mean is that while we can have the desires of our heart, we are to deny our own way of achieving them and trust the Lord to do it His way (Proverbs 16:7, Isaiah 55:8) Denying ourselves also means turning away from the ways of the “old self” and continually putting on our new self in Christ (Colossians 3:1-10). This continual turning away from sin even means to we are to “crucify ourselves” as Paul says in Galatians 5:24.
But this ongoing dying to ourselves is not so that we would “deny ourselves and stay denied”. We deny ourselves, however painful it might be, in order that we would gain a greater good. We are called to such self-denial so that God, in disciplining us, would give to us a greater share of His own holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11). Paul also tells us, in Romans 8:18, that whatever we might have to suffer here on earth, even as we would deny ourselves, that it will be far outweighed by the eternal glory that awaits us.
All this is ours because Jesus Christ, in the ultimate sense, denied His very life so that we would have forgiveness, life, and all things (Matthew 16:21, Romans 8:32). In Him, though we deny ourselves, we have all that we could ever hope for.