Embracing the Call to Self-Denial

What Does it Mean to Deny Oneself?

Jesus’s message in Mark 8:34–35 is unequivocal: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Here, Jesus sets a clear standard for those who seek to follow Him—they must deny themselves. But what does this entail?

Jesus Christ said “anyone who wants to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me

Denying oneself does not simply mean giving up material possessions or indulgences. It goes much deeper than that. It requires a complete surrender of our own will and desires to God.

This means putting aside our own selfish ambitions, pride, and worldly priorities in order to fully submit to God’s will for our lives.

Embracing the Call to Self-Denial And Following Jesus

The Challenge of Choosing Masters

At its core, self-denial entails relinquishing our own desires, ambitions, and will in favor of aligning ourselves with the will of Christ. It’s a fundamental shift in allegiance, a recognition that we cannot serve two masters.

As Jesus Himself declares, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24 NASB).

This challenge becomes particularly acute when our own desires conflict with the teachings of Christ. In such moments, we are faced with a crucial decision—to whom will we pledge our allegiance? Will we prioritize our own fleeting desires, or will we submit to the authority and lordship of Christ?

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The Meaning of Lordship

Jesus’s question in Luke 6:46—”So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”—strikes at the heart of the matter. To call Jesus “Lord” implies a recognition of His supreme authority and lordship over our lives.

However, mere lip service is not enough. True discipleship requires obedience to His teachings and submission to His will.

Herein lies the danger of empty professions of faith. If we claim to follow Christ while disregarding His commands, our profession of faith becomes hollow and meaningless. Jesus desires genuine discipleship, characterized by a heartfelt commitment to obey His teachings and follow His example.

Embracing Kingdom Principles in a Democratic Society

The Clash of Mindsets

One of the greatest obstacles to understanding the concept of self-denial is the clash between kingdom principles and democratic ideologies. In Western societies, democracy reigns supreme, with its emphasis on individual rights, freedoms, and autonomy.

However, the kingdom of God operates on entirely different principles. God is not a democratically elected leader subject to the will of the people; He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, whose authority is absolute and unchallengeable.

Embracing Divine Dictatorship

While the concept of God as a dictator may seem unsettling to those raised in democratic societies, it is essential to recognize His sovereignty and lordship over all creation. As the psalmist declares, “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice” (Psalm 97:1 NASB). God’s rule is characterized by wisdom, justice, and righteousness, and His decrees are to be obeyed without question.

In the kingdom of God, submission to divine authority is not optional—it is the very essence of discipleship. As subjects of God’s kingdom, we are called to yield our will to His, trusting in His wisdom and sovereignty to guide our lives.

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The Perils of Self-Reliance: Learning from Adam and Eve

The Fatal Choice of Autonomy

The tragic story of Adam and Eve serves as a cautionary tale against the perils of self-reliance and autonomy. When faced with the choice between obedience to God’s command and the pursuit of their own desires, they chose the latter, with devastating consequences for themselves and all of humanity.

Their rebellion against God’s authority resulted in spiritual separation from Him and the introduction of sin and death into the world. Their misguided attempt to assert their independence led only to ruin and despair—a sobering reminder of the folly of trusting in our own wisdom and understanding.

Embracing Divine Guidance

In contrast to the tragic example of Adam and Eve, true wisdom lies in submitting to the guidance and lordship of Christ. As Proverbs 3:5–6 admonishes us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

By relinquishing our own autonomy and embracing the lordship of Christ, we discover true freedom and fulfillment. In surrendering our lives to His authority, we find purpose, meaning, and abundant life—a life marked by obedience, humility, and unwavering faith in the goodness and sovereignty of our King.

Conclusion: Embracing the Call to Self-Denial

In a world obsessed with self-promotion, autonomy, and individualism, the call to self-denial may seem counterintuitive and challenging. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are called to a higher standard—to surrender our own desires and ambitions in favor of aligning ourselves with the will of our Lord and Savior.

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True discipleship requires a radical shift in allegiance—a recognition that Jesus Christ is not merely a figurehead or moral teacher, but the sovereign ruler of our lives. In embracing His lordship, we find true freedom, purpose, and fulfillment—qualities that elude those who insist on clinging to their own autonomy and self-reliance.

As we heed the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34–35, let us embrace the call to self-denial with humility and obedience, knowing that in losing our lives for His sake, we find true life and salvation. May we echo the words of the psalmist, “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice” (Psalm 97:1 NASB), as we joyfully submit to the sovereign rule of our King.

Recommended Bible Study Verses

  1. Matthew 16:24 (KJV): “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
  2. Matthew 6:24 (NASB): “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
  3. Psalm 97:1 (NASB): “The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; Let the many islands be glad.”
  4. Proverbs 3:5–6 (KJV): “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
  5. Luke 6:46 (NLT): “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?”

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