Summary: What Would Jesus Do - denying oneself and taking up the cross by placing the spiritual and basic needs of others over your own
Like most you, I was raised in a Christian home. My parents took me to church on Sundays and most Wednesday nights. I participated in Vacation Bible School, church choir and youth activities. I was baptized when I was twelve. I do not remember my baptism. I guess I must of felt something special at the time but I just do not remember it. I don’t remember it as a life changing experience. I was just doing what I had always been taught. “Come to me(Jesus Christ) all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28. I don’t know what could have been burdening my little twelve year old heart that I needed rest from. But what I did know is that I needed to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and be baptized if I wanted to go to heaven to do that. And so I was baptized.
I suspect for many Christians today, Christianity is just that, a ticket to heaven. It is something that takes place on “automatic pilot” because they lived in a Christian home. It is a “one stop” shopping experience where with a brief stop at salvation, one can walk out of the waters with all there is to Christianity. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in baptism, the life changing kind of baptism. I believe in Jesus Christ is the truth and the way . Jesus Christ came to earth, suffered, died on the cross and rose again to save us. But folks the Bible does not end at Matthew 11:28 with Jesus just saying “Come to me”. Jesus Christ’s teachings continue throughout the New Testament. And in Luke 9:23 He says, not only “Come to me” but“If anyone would come after me, deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” He said “Come after me.” That isn’t suggesting a sedentary lifestyle. Life in Christ is not a spectator sport. God didn’t call us to be Couch Potatoes just sitting there waiting for Him to come back and take us to heaven. He did more than come to earth to bring us salvation in heaven. He saved us to change us. Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed ” He wants us to be changed, remade, recreated in his image. Luke 9:23 tells us how it should be changed. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
What does it mean to deny ourselves? Henry Martyn as a missionary to India to a great example of what it means to deny oneself. Martyn had done more than his share of missionary service when he announced he was going to Persia. Doctors warned him that the heat in India would kill him. The heat in Persia was much worse. And yet Martyn went any ways.
He wanted to take God’s Word to the Persian people. He studied the Persian language and translated the New Testament and Psalms in an amazing nine months. Only to be told that he must have the Shah’s permission to circulate it. He traveled 600 miles over rough terrain to Tehran only to be denied permission to see the Shah. But Martyn wasn’t ready give up. He turned around and made a 400 mile trip to find the British ambassador who gave his credentials and said “This is all I can do. You will have to present them yourself.”
Barely able to stand, Martyn rode at night on the back of a mule. He hid from the sweltering heat of the day in a small canvas tent. When he returned to Tehran he was received by the Shah who gave permission for the Scriptures in Persian to be circulated.
Ten days laterMartyn died in Turkey having willingly denied his own personal safety to take the message to the lost. There are still places in the world Christian persecution abound, where service to God means consequences, torture and even death. There a person must be totalling willing to deny oneself for the purpose of glorifying God.
In America religious tolerance reigns. Sacrifice is naughty word. The individual’s rights and needs come first. Everything from commercials to education pushes in the direction of advancing ourselves. Our individual rights take precedent over the poor, alienated and lost. The world would have us habitually think of ourselves first and foremost.
And yet Christ continues to call us, call us to deny ourselves, our own agendas, plans and dreams to seek God’s will for our live. Denying of self means different things to different people. For parents it means denying one’s self seeking desires to replace them with the desire for what is in the best interest of their child. For a spouse it means denying one’s self in interest of asking how can I first help my partner. For an individual living in an environment with others next door it means denying self to service the needs of the neighbor. To an employee or employer it means denying self concern for advancement and focusing instead on how to be of service and help to colleagues, employers and employees. For a youth it means denying one’s own wants and desires for the wisdom of your parents, for other youth who are lost and hurting, for children who need your guidance and love, and for the older adult who wants to be respected, needed and loved.