Summary: In this passage Jesus lays out the principles of discipleship, when He says, “If anyone would come after me" he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.
The Commands of Christ
Sermon # 24
“Principles of Discipleship”
We live in a day of "casual Christianity." I heard someone recently say that the average church could drop one fourth of its members from the membership roll and neither the church nor the dropped members would notice any difference.
Casual Christians are those who want to be numbered among the Flock, but could care less about following the Shepherd. They want the forgiveness the cross of Christ brings but never intend to carry their own cross. They want warm, fuzzy moments on Sunday mornings but offer no commitment to Jesus on Monday mornings. In short, they want the crown without the cross.
“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. (25)"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (26)"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
The next command that we want to examine (there are actually two of them) are found in verse twenty four, where Jesus says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself (aparnesastho), and take up his cross, and follow Me (akoloutheitho).
In this passage Jesus lays out the principle of discipleship, when he says, “If anyone would come after me.” We are not allowed to come to God on our own terms we must come to Him on His terms. To those who had not yet placed their faith in Jesus His words, “come after me” can be applied to the initial decision to surrender their lives to Christ for salvation. To those who have already placed their faith in Jesus for salvation, the call to “come after me” is a renewal of a call to a life of daily obedience to Christ. This is necessary because we are all under the constant temptation to take back what was given up and to reclaim what was forsaken. It is altogether possible to again place one’s own will above God’s and to take back rights which were relinquished to him.
Here Jesus says if you are going to “come after me” here is what you must do.
First, The Disciple is Called to Lay Something Down – Deny Himself "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…”
It is important to understand that Jesus does not mean what we usually think of as “self-denial.” By this we usually mean that we are giving up something. It is like how some Christian’s observe Lent, by giving up something, perhaps it is the giving up of a bad habit in life, or up something really important like, “I am going to give up, wearing my “Bullwinkle the Moose” Houseshoes. That is not the Jesus talking about. He is not only concerned with what we do, but even more importantly what we are. Therefore he is not talking about denying ourselves luxuries or even necessities, but about “denying self” with is entirely different. Denying self means that we renounce our right to ourselves, the right to rule our own lives.
The phrase “deny himself” literally means, “to completely disown, to utterly separate oneself from someone.” It is the same word used to describe Peter’s denial of Jesus outside the high priests home, Matt. 26:34! Each time he was confronted about his connection with Jesus, Peter more fervently denied knowing him (vv. 70, 72, 74).
The disciple is to utterly disown himself, to
refuse to acknowledge the self of the old man.
•We are to count the old man as being dead, (Rom. 6:11).
•We are to make no provision for the flesh.
•To deny oneself means to follow the example set forth by the Lord Jesus Himself in coming to this world. (Phil. 2:5-8).
•We are to live our lives as one alive to God, but dead to sin and to the world, Gal. 2:20.
What does all this mean in a practical sense? Someone has said it this way, “If when you are good, evil is spoken, and when your wishes are crossed and your advice is disregarded, and your opinions are ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, and even defend yourself’ but your take it patiently in loving silence, then you are dying to self. And when you lovingly and patiently bear any disgrace, any irregularity, any annoyance, when you stand face to face with extravagance and folly and spiritual insensitivity and endure it, as Jesus did, that is dying to self. And when you are content with any food, any money, any clothing, any society, any solitude or interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self. And when you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works, or itch after commendation from others, and when you truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self. When you see you brother prosper, see his needs wondrously met, and can honestly rejoice with him [with his big house, with big car, with his big pool – whatever it may be] without feeling envy, and never question God though your needs are greater and still unmet, that is dying to self. Now when you can receive correction and reproof from someone of less stature, and admit that he is right and find no resentment or rebellion in your heart, that is dying to self.”[As quoted by Craig Giannini. “Gaining by Losing.” www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~gvcc/sermon_trans/Gain_by_Losing.htm. ]