TO FOLLOW JESUS, WE MUST FIRST DENY/DISAVOW OURSELVES, FROM OURSELVES AND BECOME OBEDIENT DISCIPLES ASSIMILATING CHRIST’S VALUES TO GOVERN OUR LIVES AND EMBRACE THE WILL OF GOD.
Taking up the cross requires full submission to the will of God. Full submission requires denying or disavowing our natural man for our spiritual man. Jesus is commanding us to reject our natural feelings about ourselves. Mark 8:24 is not about possessions as we so often think. Possessions are a byproduct of our natural selves. Our possessions govern who we think we are in the natural. Jesus wants us to deny, disavow, that we are our own, that we own ourselves. Ray Stedman, Authentic Christianity, writes:
“Jesus is saying something very fundamental. It strikes right at the heart of our very existence, because the one thing that we, as human beings, value and covet and protect above anything else is the right to make ultimate decisions for ourselves. We refuse to be under anything or anyone but reserve the right to make the final decisions of our lives; this is what Jesus is telling us. He is not talking about giving up this or that, but about giving up ourselves.”
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 explains the transference very clearly, if we are going to follow Jesus, we no longer own ourself. He has ultimate rights; He has Lordship of our life. So, we no longer belong to ourself; Jesus will make final decisions when the issues of our lives hang in the balance. This is what Jesus means by “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself,” we must deny our self-trust, deny our self-sufficiency, deny our feeling so we can handle life by ourselves and run everything to suit ourselves.
Jesus is saying that discipleship requires disavowing ourselves from ourselves and putting him in charge of our lives. It is our pride that keeps us from being dependent upon God. God is calling for us to disavow our human traits and pick up his traits Paul described Galatians 5:16-26 NIV, Freedom in Christ.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
There is only one way to becoming a disciple of Christ, and that is to obey his commands and be completely dependent upon Him for direction. We have to choose to do what Jesus says and not what we think independent of Him. If he instructs us to turn right when we planned to turn left, do so, we never know what lesson lies ahead or what harm you are avoiding. Only Jesus knows the plans for our lives. We are not our own.
“Following Jesus is not a decision for the moment, but a program for a lifetime, to be repeated again and again, whenever we fall into circumstances which make these choices necessary.”
References -BibleHub.com; Biblestudytools.com; Blueletterbible.org.
Note: Much of the context is either quoted or paraphrased from Ray Stedman, The Way of the Cross. Raystedman.org.
Images: Google Images; Discipleship image – Heritage Christian School
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