The Walk – Week 4 Day 1, Living Life For Christ
Week 4 – Day 1, “Denying self”
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”
19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:18-27
I read recently about a father who learned something from his son. The son was nineteen years old, committed to becoming a missionary and hoping to spend his next semester of school in Nairobi, Kenya. The father heard that that was a dangerous place so he told his son in a phone call he would have to reconsider. He said his son answered very nonchalantly and said; “Dad, you better get used to me facing danger. God has called me to the mission field, so you can say ‘no’ to Nairobi now, but you can’t protect me forever.” The Father hung up the phone so impressed with his son’s commitment to follow Christ he prayed, “Father, change my heart. Let my faith cost me something. Make it a daring and dangerous adventure of following you.” He wanted the kind of commitment he saw in his son.
The passage that we are looking at today is all about true commitment to Christ. Jesus never spoke of that kind of commitment as something that was optional or only for some very special Christians. In fact, it is interesting to notice that in this passage what Jesus is saying is that this path of commitment to him is the path you have to take if you value saving your life and your self. The meaning of discipleship is to follow Christ with total commitment. Listen again to Luke 9:23. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Listen to the specifics of this. Listen personally. First, Jesus says, “To come after me you must deny yourself.” Sometimes people talk about self-denial and what they mean is the idea of denying yourself certain things like pleasures or luxuries; like giving up candy and cigarettes. But what Jesus requires is that you deny self itself. He wants you to deny self-centeredness and self-pity and even the idea of self-will. He calls you to surrender your sense of independent self-life to Him as Lord. So that you no longer live your life for your self but you live your life for Him. That’s the paradox of the promise Jesus makes here. He says it is in losing your life that you find it. He means it is in giving up your independence and living for him that you find your freedom and greatest fulfillment.
The biggest issues of life require more than will power. They require total surrender. Many of you know that over 35 years ago I went through a 12-step program for drug addiction. The twelve steps as used today have lost a lot of their original Christian content but they are still the most effective program today for helping people escape the most powerful addictions in the world. Do you know in which of the twelve steps you determine by an act of the will that you will no longer abuse alcohol or drugs? In what step do you say: “I am going to mobilize all my will power and determine to overcome this addiction by never touching drugs or alcohol again.” That’s a trick question. In the most powerful program for recovery from addiction in the world you never say that. That isn’t one of the steps. They have learned that you can’t do it by self-will. They’ve tried that. What it takes is a special kind of surrender to something bigger than yourself. So in step one (1.) you realize you are powerless and your life unmanageable. In step two (2.) you believe in a power greater than yourself. In step three (3.) you make a decision to turn your will and your life over to God. It is interesting isn’t it that even when they are not sure who God is there is this idea, an idea that I believe the original founders of AA took from the Scriptures, that you have to surrender your will. Those twelve step programs are imperfect without Christ. But they have proven powerful because they reflect certain core principles of Christian discipleship. This is one of them. To experience true transformation you have to fully surrender your will to the will of another, to Christ.
Denying yourself in this sense is not becoming passive. It is actively choosing God’s will as your will. The paradox of the promise Jesus makes here is that he says it is in that kind of surrender that you find a freedom and fulfillment you cannot find any other way.
What, if any questions does that raise for you? If you were trying to explain the above statement and persuade a friend that it was right and true how would you do it? In your own words, what might you say?
Our memory verse this week is; Luke 9:23-24 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
Continue reading the Bible. Keep reading the gospel of John. If you are reading a lot and finish John consider reading Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians or Luke. Or ask the group or person you are doing The Walk with to make suggestions. The important thing is to try to be consistent in your reading. Write down your questions, thoughts and insights as you read. Don’t forget to review your memory verse from last week and this week.