In this article we'll be looking at Luke 9:23-27 in this great Gospel of Luke together. The subject of this passage is self denial. But of course I'm not just talking about self denial in general. The kind of self denial that Jesus is talking about is based upon the Gospel. It's only enabled by grace and it has as its goal something only a believer can strive for or hope for. And so I want to think with you for a few moments about this call to self denial from the lips of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Self denial is at the very heart of Christian discipleship. You cannot be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and also choose not to deny yourself because self denial is at the very heart of Biblical Christianity. Self denial is part and parcel of the practice of being a Christian disciple, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew Henry once said that "self denial is the first lesson in Christ's school." That is, when the Lord Jesus saves you from your sins by His grace and by His blood, when you by faith are united to Him, the very first lesson He begins to teach you is self denial and He never ceases teaching you that lesson.

Let's notice the three things in that call to self denial that Jesus announces.

I. Deny Self

The first of the three distinct parts of Jesus' charge is that we are to deny ourselves. What does that mean? It means to renounce anything that challenges or trumps our allegiance to the kingdom of God. We are to renounce our yearning to possess things if they trump our allegiance to the kingdom of God. We are to renounce our desire for power if it challenges or trumps our allegiance to the kingdom of God. We're to renounce the favor of men if it costs us loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to renounce human glory if it vies with or diminishes the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ and we are to seek first the kingdom. We are to deny ourselves.

II. Take Your Cross Daily

And then look at the second thing that Jesus says - "Take up your cross daily and follow Me." What does that mean? To be ready to bear afflictions in this life knowing that God prepared them beforehand. He means to respond to those afflictions the way that Joseph responded to his afflictions.

Remember what Joseph said about his brothers? "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good." In other words, the affliction that you may be experiencing may be the result of someone's evil against you, but even so, you say, "I take this up because this is God's will in my life. He has a purpose for me even in this. The sin is not his. The sin is the one who has done it against me, but the purpose is God's. He has a purpose for me. I believe that He is working all things for good for me according to His own purposes." Take up that affliction. Bear up that affliction, knowing that God has prepared it for you, not only to bear, but to take up and to trust Him that He has a good purpose in it." So you deny yourself and you take up that affliction and then what? You follow Christ. What does that mean? It means you look to Christ, you imitate Him, you follow Him in obedience and examples, whatever trials may lie in your way.

You know it's interesting to me, there's no part of the Christian life that doesn't entail self-denial. Self-denial is a part of every aspect to the Christian life, forgiveness especially because to forgive requires self-denial.

I wonder if there's someone that you need to forgive - maybe it's your husband or your wife, maybe it's your parents, maybe it's your children, maybe it's someone who was a dear, dear friend but from whom you have now been estranged - you've been wounded; you've been done wrong. Maybe it's someone in this congregation. It will require self-denial for you to take the first step of forgiveness and reconciliation, but hear what Jesus is saying to you - "If anyone will follow Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and come after Me."

The second thing I want you to see is this - those who refuse to deny themselves and instead seek their own satisfaction will never find it. Jesus promises it. Look at what He says - verse 24 - "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." Jesus is saying that the only way to experience, to gain, true life is giving yourself away, is giving your life away, is losing your life, is denying yourself. Those that live for themselves never ever get the satisfaction that they seek.

In fact, what happens is their souls get smaller and smaller. They shrivel up. They become turned in on themselves. Have you ever met someone like that who's lived that way for many, many years and is now on the brink of eternity? It is not a pretty sight. But those who deny themselves, their souls are enlarged. Their souls grow. They become filled with love. They care about things that are eternal. They're able to forgive. They're able to experience a joy that no one else could imagine.

And so it is in the Christian life. If you pursue your satisfaction, you will not get it. If you pursue His kingdom, you will, except it will be greater than any satisfaction you can imagine.

III. If We Fail To Deny Ourselves In This Life, We Will Lose Our Souls.

But here's the last thing I want you to see my friends. If we do not go the way of self-denial, we will lose our souls, for there is no temporal gain that can compare to the loss of the soul. "What does it profit" - look at verse 25 - "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses or forfeits himself?" What does it matter to have ease and comfort and popularity and beauty and prestige and success and power and money and influence without true life? What does it matter? And what are we investing ourselves in?

Missionary Jim Elliot could say, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." That is the Christian algebra of self-denial. You see in the end, it's not denial of self equals loss of satisfaction and so we grin and bear it for Jesus. It's denial of self does bring real and often lifelong lasting depravation, which then becomes an eternity filled with satisfaction that we could not imagine. And sometimes even that satisfaction bleeds back into this age so that we enjoy foretaste of that glory which fill up every void which has been left in our life by the self denial. The Lord Jesus Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. It is an adventure worth beginning.