[Jesus said] “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves . . . For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
Are you someone who has tried self-denial?
Maybe it was for the sake of losing weight or athletic endeavors—you denied yourself certain foods or extra sleep, or leisure time to exercise or train.
Maybe it was for the sake of loved ones—you didn’t do or eat certain things because you knew it would leave out someone else who couldn’t do those things.
Maybe it was for spiritual or discipline reasons. Fasting has long been used as an act of repentance or to sharpen mental and spiritual focus.
But the kind of self-denial Jesus expects of his disciples is a little different. To deny myself is to do the exact opposite of what my sinful nature wants to do. My sinful nature wants me to put myself first and serve myself and do only what’s best for me. Denying myself means never putting myself first.
But, my sinful nature objects, if you don’t put yourself first, who will watch out for you? If you deny yourself, who will take care of you? You have to put yourself first, at least some of the time.
But Jesus invites us to trust him. He says, “I denied myself to come and be your Savior. I put my Father’s will first as I served you in my life and my death so that the greatest thing you need is already yours. You are a child of God and an heir of eternal life!”
“And if I’ve given you that, you can be sure I will care for you in every other need you have. Because I love you perfectly, you can trust me enough to put God first in your life and to love others more than yourself.”
Self-denial is never easy. It is a constant struggle. It is a daily battle. Praise God that his Son was willing to deny himself for us. And turn to him daily for forgiveness and strength to deny ourselves as we serve him every day.
Dear Jesus, my self-sacrificing Savior, forgive my selfishness and give me strength to deny myself for you every day. Amen.