What is it about denying that is so hard and often confusing to us? We think of denying as giving up something that we really desire, like our favorite food or entertainment. By the world’s standards that is true. But if I really want to follow Jesus and not just watch from the sidelines, then let’s go to the foundation of denying and learn what will help us deny ourselves and follow Jesus.
Jesus asked the disciples a question in Luke 9:20, saying, “But who do you say that I am?” To follow Jesus I must have a correct understanding of who He is. People really struggle with their Christian life because they have a false idea of who Jesus is and a false idea about the character of God. Lies have been built up over time because of bad experiences and even false teaching. They may look at God as a demanding father who is ready to judge us. Or they may look at Jesus as this wonderful teacher who loved people and will accept everyone when we die. False beliefs about God and not understanding who Jesus is will greatly hinder us from following Him.
So when Jesus says, “deny yourself,” (Luke 9:23) how does a correct understanding of who Jesus is help me? If I know and believe that there is a deep love for me and Jesus is very passionate for my life, then I will want to deny myself and follow Him. You see, His love is life-changing. When I embrace His love and have a correct understanding of the person and nature of God, then I will follow Jesus and really deny myself. My life will change! To deny then is to turn from your selfish ways, your selfish ambition. His love is so deep and so satisfing to me and that really fuels me to follow Him even more.
The foundation of denying is not to remove myself from the “things of the world.” The foundation of denying is embracing the love of Jesus and then I will want to remove the “things of the world.” When I really love Jesus and all that He is, then I will experience a changed life and I will deny myself.