What does denying self really look like? In this verse it means giving up our right to our-self…of becoming more like Jesus and less like ourselves. It’s refusing to allow our carnal nature to rule and reign on the throne of our life. But it’s even more basic than that. You can be saved, but not be a disciple. For discipleship means we have to first strip away pride and selfishness…rejecting our flesh to become more in the image of Christ. The Great Commission of Jesus is to, “Go make disciples…” But we can’t make disciples if we ourselves are not one first.
Elsewhere in Mark, Jesus brought home this point when He said, ” If anyone wants to be first he must be the very last and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) But having a servant’s heart goes against our grain. We’d much rather be honored and have people serve us than swallow our pride and do for others. But we need to remember that the most important thing that comes out of a servant’s heart is joy. For when we put others ahead of ourselves…we’re putting our priorities in proper perspective… Jesus first –Others second – Yourself last.
Our Heavenly Father is both benevolent and altruistic when it comes to blessing us. But we usually take that graciousness and turn it into prideful thinking. “Look what gifts the Lord has given me!” I Peter 4: 10-11 reminds us that we are to use those gifts to serve others, not flaunt them in front of people as trophies. The Apostle Paul warns us here that’s it’s all about our state of mind when regarding our giftings… it’s all about gratitude, not attitude and humility, not vanity.
Moses was speaking to a defiant and rebellious Israel in the desert wilderness after they had returned from a disastrous battle with the Amorites. The enemy had chased the Jewish army down the hillside like a swarm of bees…beating them back…resulting in heavy casualties. The old saying, “I’d rather ask for forgiveness than ask permission,” just doesn’t work with God! Anytime we think we know more than God, we’re treading on thin ice…and anytime we act on it, we too will be marching out minus God’s blessing.
One of the pit-falls of any ministry is that we start glorifying ourselves, not God. Pride starts to push itself in…and soon our ego is searching for the limelight and honor. II Corinthians 4:1 states, “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” It’s only because of God’s infinite compassion on us that we have any kind of ministry at all. And it’s only because of the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering us that we can act as ambassadors, representing our Lord. When a ministry glorifies God…and not our egos, good things happen.
Can you echo these same words that John the Baptist declared about Jesus and himself? What then is it that hinders us from making such a sweeping statement? In a single word – pride. Our selfish agenda pushes us to plunge ahead without God’s direction first. Our willful pride orchestrates our own plans, devoid of the Lord’s guidance. We want to remain on the throne of our life, rather than yielding to God. So what are we so afraid of? Are we fearful that as God increases in our life, our own personal identity will diminish to the point we’ll disappear? In a single word -Yes! But isn’t that what becoming a Christ Follower is all about? Our goal is to become less, as God becomes more. So how can we do this? It takes a conscious act of our Will and a yielding of our pride to allow the Lord to increase within us. And it also takes these words…”Yes, Lord. I ask for more of You and less of me.”
Jesus Christ has all authority both on earth and in heaven. (Matthew 28:18)…so why is it so hard to yield our will to His? In our head we know He has supreme rule…but our rebellious nature would rather do things our way than submit…our pride and arrogance would rather rule than surrender. We need to remember that submission to God’s authority is the beginning of freedom not slavery.