Last updated: July 16. 2014 10:55AM - 378 Views
Norm Fields Contributing columnist

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“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:38).”

Jesus willingly denied His own desire to be spared from the suffering and shame of the cross so that He could fulfill the will of His Father in heaven. When He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, praying so hard that the sweat poured from His face like great drops of blood (Lk. 22:44), He asked the Father three times for a way to avoid the coming suffering (Matt. 26:44). But each time He exemplified the principle of self-denial when He said, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39).

When the soldiers came to take Jesus from the garden, Peter tried to protect Him with the sword (Jn. 18:10). But Jesus told Peter that if He wanted to escape the cross He could call twelve legions of angels to fight for Him (Matt. 26:53). He didn’t though. Even though He had prayed so fervently for deliverance, He willingly allowed Himself to be taken.

With the principle of self-denial so firmly tied to the cross, it is no wonder we find Jesus using the figure of cross bearing to instruct His disciples in this important principle of the Christian life (Matt. 16:24).

What does “self-denial” mean?

Self-denial means that we do not live to serve our own desires.

Paul teaches the necessity of self-denial in 2 Corinthians 5:15, by saying, “and He [Jesus] died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” Also using the image of the cross to express self-denial, Paul says that he had been crucified with Christ so that he no longer lived his life to serve his own will but the will of “the Son of God, who loved [him] and gave Himself for [him]” (Gal. 2:20) Paul says that his self-denial was so extensive that he lived as though Christ were living in his place.

Self-denial also means having a total commitment of Christ.

A person must carefully consider the cost of discipleship and willingly make the decision to “forsake all” to follow Christ (Luke 14:33).

The apostle Paul is a good example of “forsaking all” to follow Jesus (Phil. 3:7-8). Even though he was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” i.e. a very successful student and rising star among the Jews, he counted all these things “loss for Christ.” He willingly gave all these things up for his total commitment to Christ. So much so that he considered these former pursuits as “rubbish.” When compared to the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ” everything else is like garbage!

This kind of commitment to Christ comes before any earthly wealth.

The rich young ruler couldn’t be a disciple of Christ because he put his riches before his commitment to Christ (Matt. 19:21, 22). Jesus didn’t require all of his disciples to give away everything they had. So, why did He make such a requirement of the rich young ruler? Because that young man had something that he placed above his commitment to Christ – his riches – that had to be taken out of the way before he could truly be a faithful disciple. There is no amount of treasure that should be able to come between us and Christ! He is the Preeminent One in all things (Col. 1:18).

This kind of commitment to Christ is stronger even than family ties (Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26).

Many times family members will put us in a position where we have to choose to please them or to serve Christ. What is truly good for our families is to be an example of total commitment to Christ that will help them do the same. We cannot compromise for the sake of pleasing others, no, not even our families.

This kind of commitment to Christ is even above our own lives (Matt. 10:38-39; 16:24-25).

When it comes to being faithful to Christ nothing should be able to stop us, not even the threat of death. That familiar phrase from Revelation 2:10, “be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life,” doesn’t mean to be faithful till we grow old and die. Read that passage. It means to be faithful even if we are in danger of being killed for our faith.

Jesus denied Himself “to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). He did that for us so that we could have everlasting life (Matt. 20:28; Rom. 6:3, 4). Should we not be at least as committed to Him as He is to us?

Jesus said that if we do not take up our cross daily and follow Him then we are not worthy of Him (Luke 9:23). Let us deny ourselves and be totally committed to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20).

Norm Fields is the minister for the Church of Christ Northside meeting at 1101 Hogansville Road in LaGrange. He may be reached at 706-812-9950 or BibleQnA@NormFields.com.

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