Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24 (NKJ)
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:33
Jesus in His teaching on the cost of discipleship was brutally honest about His expectation of His followers. There was no mincing of words or changing of position to make the offer more appealing to His listeners. To be “in Christ”, to be in relationship with Him, required denial of self and forsaking all. Christ’s expectations have not changed.
Deny has two meanings: (1) to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone and (2) to lose sight of one’s self and own interests. The writer of our Matthew text (Matt. 16:24) uses the second definition. As we explore the surrendered life in Christ, I would offer both definitions. As part of their “bond with Christ” (Ep. 4:3), believers must also reject their love of this world—“the lust of their flesh, the lust of their eyes, and the pride of that tempts them” (1 John 2:16). All these must no longer pull the believer’s affections from Christ. Denial of self is possible through the believer’s “supernatural position” as a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
The world, Satan, and our flesh are not big on “denying or forsaking.” They encourage believers to place their desires above the Lord’s. They deceive by whispering, “You can have it your way right now. Jesus can wait another day.” Jesus replies, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and offers instead His love (John 3:16), salvation (Heb. 2:10), forgiveness (Ep. 1:7), freedom (Ps. 146:7), and peace (Col. 3:15). Living a surrendered life in Christ is not “burdensome” (1 John 5:3) because there is the realization that we have chosen “the Pearl of Great Price” (Matt. 13:46). To give up other offers, by comparison, is a surrender of the lesser.
Good to the Last Byte…
In the following excerpt from Immortal Diamonds Richard Rohr shares a glimpse into the secret of living a surrendered life through the contemporary example of the Amish.
“The Amish people know they are connected to and a part of a much larger divine reality which looks naïve to the rest of us. On the foundation as to what is real and what is passing, they are experts. It also explains their peace, happiness and contentment.”