Deny Yourself

Luke 9:23

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. (NASB)

     What does Jesus mean when He says that we must “deny ourselves”?  This was the question that capitalized our attention at Sr. High youth group this week.  Many of the students in our group (and likely many of you) took this to mean that we need to abandon the goals that we used to have for our lives.  For example, before Hypothetical John became a Christian, he wanted to be an actor.  But now that Hypothetical John is a Christian, he must abandon his dream and find something else to do as a career; something more “Christian-y”.  But is this what Jesus meant?

     Clearly, there are some hopes and dreams that must get scrapped when becoming a Christian.  There is no way to be a disciple of Jesus while still making it big in the adult film industry.  But, it is not the obvious that brings confusion to Jesus’ statement.  What about Hypothetical John?  Sure, there are some morally questionable actors, but is acting something that Christians should not do?  Of course not.  There are plenty of Christian actors; not all of which are only found in Christian films.  Denying ourselves is something bigger than changing our career goals.

     In our study, author Darrell Johnson says that denying yourself “means to deny your lordship”.  Imagine that there is a thrown within your heart.  Our default position is to have ourselves seated on that thrown.  Because we sit on the thrown of our own lives, everything we do is motivated by our own selfishness.  But when we accept Jesus as our Lord, we must remove ourselves from lordship and place Jesus on the thrown.  Jesus has plans for our life (and the rest of the world) which are not rooted in our own selfishness, which is why denying ourselves requires us to reevaluate our life’s goals.

     But does reevaluating our goals mean that we must give them up? Sometimes this is the case, but often it isn’t.  Remember, God created us with passions and talents which He intends us to use for His glory.  Even though it might have taken us a while to get on the same page as God, those desires have always been a part of us.  Hypothetical John might need to reevaluate why he wants to be an actor and confirm that this goal is still in-line with God’s plan, but it was no accident that he gravitated towards acting.  God’s plan for John might be that he continues to become an actor with the intention of reaching other actors in Hollywood for the Kingdom of God.  God’s plan might instead be that John teaches drama at a local high school, offering himself as a mentor for the youth that he serves.  The difference between Hypothetical John’s pre-Christian goals and his goals as a disciple of Jesus is that he is no longer motivated by a selfish desire to become rich and famous, but rather by the desire to make the love of Christ famous.  We cannot do that while we sit on our own thrown.  We must deny our own lordship and allow the true king to take His place.
For His Glory