When Jesus instructed His disciples, and the others, about what it meant to follow Him in Matthew 16:24-25, He spoke of "desire to come after me" and then "let him deny himself." We looked at desire in our last message, and now we will turn our focus to what He meant by "deny himself." Note the requirement and sequence in the verse below. First, there must be desire ("if anyone desires to come after Me"). Then, a denial and the corresponding action showing the commitment to deny himself ("take up his cross"). And finally, the invitation to "follow Me." Jesus shows surrendering to Him must follow in this order. In essence, first meet the conditions, and then come "follow Me."
Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" - Matthew 16:24-25.
The word deny (aparnéomai) when followed by the pronoun heautón (oneself, himself) means "to deny oneself, or to disown and renounce self and to subjugate all works, interests, benefits, and enjoyments to another." The word is also translated "to speak against, contradict, to avoid, reject, nullify, to stand firm against, resist, oppose." When Jesus said we must "deny" ourselves, the impact of our denial affects all areas of our life.
Deny, Denial, and Denied!
In Matthew 10, Jesus speaks of confessing Him before men or risk having Him deny us before His Father. It is an extremely troubling warning from Christ that left no room for doubt or excuses. He said,
"Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" - Matthew 10:27-28.
Who is the One we are to fear? Exactly, the Lord. If so, do you have the fear of the Lord in you? How has that fear changed your life so far?
"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore (the consequences of speaking what the Lord tells you to say); you are of more value than many sparrows" - Matthew 10:29-31.
But then it gets quite serious for those who do not heed the Lord’s warning.
"Therefore whoever confesses Me (where) before men, him I will also confess (where) before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) Me (where) before men, him I will also deny (refuse, avoid, reject, resist, oppose) before My Father who is in heaven" - Matthew 10:32-33.
Can you imagine being denied by Christ before the Father?
Fear and Excuses
But if I confess Jesus, my friends will not include me. Or my spouse will reject me even to the point of separation or divorce. Or I’ll lose my job and source of income. Or I’ll be persecuted, even to the point of possible imprisonment. Or… you choose the excuse. They are all the same, lame. But Jesus anticipated these excuses. He continued:
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law ’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is (what) not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is (what) not worthy of Me. (Therefore) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life (why) for My sake will find it" - Matthew 10:34-39.
Or are you a follower of Jesus according to what works best for you? Have you truly counted the cost of being one with Him? Is He the center of your life? Is He your very life? Do you want Him to be? If so, everything begins at the beginning. And it all begins with desire.
Do you want to follow after Jesus? No matter what? Come what may? If so, then keep listening.
The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.