Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
As followers of Jesus, we know that our life has exited from the ordinary. The moment we said “yes” to following Jesus, we have entered a new life, new season, and out of the ordinary. Though following Jesus is the best adventure out there, there are tough times too especially when persecutions and trials arise.
When I first read this verse, I prayed to God to reveal this to me and make my understanding of this verse to become deeper. And one thing I have learned about denying yourself is that we should take our eyes off ourselves. What does that mean?
There was a time when I experienced great persecution in my family who were non-Christians. My mother could not understand the kind of life I have chosen. She felt that I have wasted my life for ‘religion.’ Every time she lectured me about it over and over again, I became defensive and angry trying to defend my faith. It never felt good to fight against your loved ones. And somehow, our relationship became distant and it had affected me for a while.
I became insecure around Christian circles whose family were all Christians. I felt lonely in this aspect. And I didn’t realize I was allowing depression to steal away my joy. Then I prayed to God to deliver me from what I was feeling and from my perception of things. Then the verse about denying yourself opened up before me and I was delivered from myself!
God made me realize that I was full of myself. I was focusing on things happening in my life, in my own family and my relationship with them combined with comparison to other people. I forgot to fix my eyes on Jesus who is faithful in all things.
I realized that Jesus wanted us to deny ourselves by removing our focus to ourselves. If the Apostle Peter, Apostle Paul and all the Apostles of Jesus Christ didn’t deny themselves and made a fuss of things in their lives such as the people’s insult or mockery for sharing the Gospel, then the Gospel would have probably been not preached well specially when they lose self-control.
Most of all, if Jesus Christ himself did not deny himself when the Pharisees mocked him, and cities rejected him and said all the bad things about him, and if he got offended and affected by such things, then we would have no Savior today.
All these evil things are normal occurrences to those who are truly following Christ – you will be insulted, hated, and persecuted by the world. As Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18).
Jesus wanted us to deny ourselves (free from offenses, unforgiveness, self-pity, and all such things) so that we will be able to carry out our mission and purpose in Christ Jesus. God’s grace is sufficient in all situations.