How Do We Deal? - What Does it Mean to Deny Self?

Writer Author  Filoiann Wiedenhoff
Christian Column : Overcoming Struggles  - Fiction  No

Christian Author Writer Matthew 16:24-25
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

In Matthew 16; 24-25, Jesus is telling his disciples what they must do to follow him. What is interesting about this statement is that his disciples have been following him for some time. They saw Jesus heal the sick, bring sight to the blind and feed the multitudes. When Jesus initially called each of the disciples the bible says they immediately got up and followed him.

So what was it that prompted Jesus to tell his disciples now at this point and time what they must do to follow Him? The answer lies in the events that took place prior to this statement. At the middle of Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who did they say He is? Simon Peter answered Him and said that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus blessed Simon Peter and from that moment forward Jesus called him Peter and told Peter that flesh and blood could not have revealed that to him but His Father in Heaven.

In the very next passage Jesus begins to share with them about his suffering to come and those that will seek to kill him and also about His resurrection. He was preparing them ahead of time for what was about to happen to Him. In Matthew 16:22 Peter takes Jesus aside after hearing this and rebukes him. Jesus knew what was in his heart and saw that he was speaking and acting in his flesh and tells Peter, “Get behind Me Satan!”

This story is a great example for many of us, myself included; who in one moment can be walking in the spirit and the next moment we can be walking in the flesh. It can happen so fast and usually does; like an on and off switch. When the light is turned on the whole room is full of light and then in an instant when the light switch is turned off the room can be completely dark.

For those of us who call ourselves, “Born Again Christians”, we have two natures living inside of us. Our old human Flesh nature we were born with and our new Spirit nature we receive when we ask Jesus to come and live in our hearts by faith.

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 - NKJV

The bible is clear that these two natures are enmity with each other. They are contrary to one another and complete opposite in their purpose and function. The flesh nature is self seeking, corrupt and born sinful from the time of Adam. Our new nature comes through the Holy Spirit which is also called the helper and through the spirit of truth it is born of heaven. The word, “Born Again” actually means born from above. Therefore, the spiritual new nature is pure, holy, righteous, and seeks only to glorify God.

Jesus, being aware of their flesh nature, was teaching them that in order to follow Christ they needed to deny themselves and pick up their crosses and follow Him. The word deny in the Hebrew is aparneomai (ap-ar-neh'-om-ahee); which means to deny utterly, disown or abstain. It is the same exact word that is used when Jesus tells Peter he will deny Jesus three times. In Matthew 26: 72 and 74 Peter says these very words, “I do not know the man”.

Let's ponder this for a moment. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples instructing them to deny self, He was instructing them to disown, deny utterly and literally say in their hearts to self, “I do not know the man”. The man or self I am referring to is the old man/flesh nature. Paul explains why in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17,

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 -NKJV
In Christ we are new creations; we are no longer to live in the old. The same as the picture of new wine cannot be put into old wine skins they will burst. New wine must be put into new wine skins so when they expand they do not burst. in the same way we are to abstain and disown the old flesh nature saying to ourselves, “I don’t know that man or woman anymore! And grab hold of the new Spiritual nature that now lives in us.

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11 – NKJV

In denying our old self nature we are acknowledging our new life by faith that His resurrected life now lives in us.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20NKJV

“But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:20-24 NKJV

In taking up our cross and following Christ daily we are choosing to live for Him and walk in His Spirit. We are saying to God daily and moment by moment, “Lord, I choose you over me”. You might be wondering right now after reading all this that if denying self was that easy why aren’t we walking in the Spirit all the time? Paul shares this answer in Romans Chapter 7.

“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:19-25

There is a spiritual battle that wages war in our bodies every single day and the bible is clear that we cannot serve two masters; we will either hate one or love the other. In this case we are either walking in the flesh or in the spirit. God gives us the free will choice to live for Him.

Once again as a reminder that by choosing to walk in His Spirit we are also saying to our flesh, “I don’t know this man/women or That's not me anymore! …the old has passed away the new has come” The bible says that when we walk in the spirit we will not fulfill the desires of our flesh. I hope you are encouraged to know that denying self is to put off the old and put on the new and then walk in it by faith through Christ Jesus who lives in you.

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Galatians 5:16-18 - NKJV

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