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.
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.”
Taking offense against another person only fosters conflict and produces anger. When our feelings are hurt, we rise up in righteous indignation and can easily allow arrogance to take over at that moment. We feel disrespected and insulted, not even listening to the wise counsel…for all we hear is an attack on our belief system…even if that belief system is corrupted. The world likes to take offense over the craziest things…But as a Believer, we need to be wary of allowing pride to color our interactions with others. Proverbs 9:9 states, ” Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
Pride loves to sneak in when we start thinking that all the wonderful things God is doing through us is somehow of our own making. Many years ago the Lord gave me this visual aide for times when I was thinking much greater of myself than I should. The picture was of an old, banged-up piece of PVC pipe. Inexpensive plastic pipe, PVC is used mainly to channel water from one area to another…it’s purpose is simple, but what it allows is very important. Like that PVC pipe , we are merely to be the conduit by which the Lord’s almighty power can flow. To be used of God, we are to be holy, useful,and prepared to do any good work for Him.(Isaiah 64:8). The function of PVC pipe is simple and humble…just as we should be.
King Uzziah was 16 years old when he became King. His fame spread far and wide, and as long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. But as Uzziah became more and more powerful, it went to his head and his pride and arrogance sadly led to his corruption. He abandoned the Lord, which led to his ruin. King Solomon in his wisdom talked about pride going before destruction, and a haughty spirit going before a fall. But I think the very best word picture of this is in Proverbs 30:29-31 “There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing; a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a King with his army around him.” Many a person’s pride and arrogance has led them down the path to ruin when they think they are mightier than God.
We were right in the middle of a huge remodeling project that Landy and I were doing in our house, when I fell and fractured my right wrist. I was casted from the tips of my fingers, to above my elbow with strict orders from the Orthopedic Specialist not to use the arm at all. For the next 8 weeks the Lord had me learn the true meaning of pride and humility. When you are forced to ask for help for the simplest of tasks, you learn humility. I was in alien territory…after all I was the person who took care of sick people…but now it was me who needed help. I learned that pride can rear its ugly head in all different forms… that not accepting help from someone is prideful, in that you are robbing them of a Blessing. I learned that accepting help from others will not somehow diminish your worth in their eyes. Finally, I learned that Landy can cook much better than I ever thought!