Summary: 2nd part to two-part series of DISCIPLESHIP & HOLINESS
Discipleship & Holiness (#2)
We left off by looking at the requirement to become a true disciple of Jesus…And that begins with a decision. It is to be an informed decision based upon the recognition of Jesus’ identity. It is to be an individual decision based upon the reception of Jesus’ invitation to be a true disciple. It is also to be an immaculate (or pure) decision based upon the requirement of the commitment. Then, it is a commitment to preserve and a commitment to a Person.
But, now let’s turn our attention to a three-fold approach that one must accomplish in this process of holiness:
I. There is a DECISION one must make. (vs. 24)
"…If anyone desires to come after Me…"
(of which we touched on in our last study)
II. There is a DEATH one must experience. (vs. 24)
"… let him deny himself…"
Death to self is the key to obtaining and maintaining a life of holiness.
A. There must be denial of self.
Denial of self is decision oriented. It has to do with our inward thought-life. To deny self speaks of a radical change of attitude and motivation.
1) Denial of self requires the SURRENDER of our will to God!
(Matt. 26:39) - "…O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
For many, self denial seems like the epitome of legalistic bondage. The thought of having to say "no" to certain dreams, ambitions, wishes and enjoyments seems unbearable.
I once heard the difference between bondage & freedom put this way:
Bondage = Biblical information + a reluctant obedience
Freedom = information + the desire and the power to obey
Scripture never calls the requirement to obey either "bondage" or "legalism;" It calls it the obedient response of love!
The first step in the denial of self requires the surrender of our will. The second step is the submission of our will to God.
2) Denial of self requires SUBMISSION to God’s will!
(Matt. 26:39) - "…as You will."
If we find ourselves filled with desires to which God’s Spirit is saying "no," and we find a lack of desire to do what we know we ought to do, we need to pray that God will work a change in us until we desire what God wants us to desire!
The denial of self is only a precursor to the next step; There must follow a death to self.
B. There must be a death to self. (vs. 24) "…take up his cross…"
1) The MEANING of the cross in our life.
To Jesus (and the citizens of Jesus’ day) the cross only meant one thing: death! When Jesus says, "take up your cross and follow Me," He is inviting His disciple to die unto self!
The cross (as we examine its meaning throughout Scripture) is not a symbol of "burden-bearing (this is a misconception that many Bible studies & pulpit preaching has propagated over the years)!" To take up your cross is not to humbly and patiently endure whatever burdens or afflictions God allows to come your way. To take up your cross is a deliberate act of committal in which we hand ourselves over to be joined to Christ in His death in order to be joined to Him in His resurrection! It simply means: Not I, but Christ!
2) The MANNER of the cross in our life.
To best illustrate the manner by which we are to take up the cross, we need to follow Jesus from Gethsemane to Golgotha.
a. Death to self is illustrated by Jesus at Calvary.
At Gethsemane we learn the meaning of self denial; we see the perfect Example of self denial at work. At Golgotha we see the commitment to obey God’s will being put into action; the decision is being lived out! Jesus is actually going where the Father wanted Him to go; He is doing exactly what the Father wants Him to do.
b. Death to self is tested by our loyalty to and love for Jesus.
(Matt. 10:37-39) - "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."
Loyalty must supercede your loyalty! This is not a spiritual inference or allegory…This is spiritual reality! Love for Jesus must supercede your love for your father, mother, sister, brother, children, spouse; death to self means that you willingly loose your life for Jesus’ sake in order to find it!