26 July 2010 (Shanee/Matzah)|
Day #133, 5934 AM
What It Means Practically
A brother asked me recently what denying self, in the context of this commandment by Yah'shua, means practically-speaking and how to apply this Scripture to our lives. To properly understand this passage, we must examine its background:
"Then Yah'shua said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt.16:24-26, NKJV).
Self wants to live in the immediate world and according to its own will. A man without God will quickly pursue a life plan, whether on a day-to-day basis or a long-term one encompassing his whole life. Yah'shua did not come to earth to 'do His own thing' because He was on a mission to die and be resurrected so that mankind might have everlasting life through trusting in Him. Those who give themselves to Yah'shua as His talmidim or disciples likewise forfeit their own plans, ambitions, hopes and expectations and yield themselves to what Yahweh wants. To deny yourself is to fully yield sovereignty of your life to the will of the Father in Yah'shua the Messiah.
"When Yah'shua came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Messiaht, the Son of the living Elohim.' Yah'shua answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock [of truth - that He is the Messiah] I will build My messianic community (church), and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.' Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Yah'shua the Messiah.
"From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Far be it from You, Master; this shall not happen to You!' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of Elohim, but the things of men'" (Matt.16:13-23, NKJV).
When a man sits down and ponders what to do with his life, he will usually plan a job, what he is going to spend his earnings on, getting a companion, a house, raising children, providing for old age, and so on. All governments by and large cater to that expectation and hope of man becaause pretty much everyone thinks that way, though not all may want to settle down into stable relationship or have a home. Nevertheless, that is the general expectation. And some, if not all, of these may well be the will of Yahweh for most of His disciples in addition to devoting time to building the Kingdom.
Denying self is the first of a three-part action required of everyone who wants to follow the Messiah, so it's not something that can be done in isolation. Denying self is essentially surrendering anything that we might want or actively pursue that would prevent us from doing the will of Yahweh, whether these pursuits are lawful or unlawful according to Yahweh's Torah. This does not mean that all our wants and pursuits should be denied - it simply means checking with Yahweh first to see if they are in line with His plan for us. To some things He will say 'yes', and to others ' no', or simply 'wait a while'. In order to do that, we have to pursue a close relationship with Him so that we can actually communicate effectively. If we don't, we'll just be guessing, and once disconnected, the flesh will always persuade us that His will is what we want. Implicit in this obligation is accepting that there is only one Master in the life of a man and for the woman only one husband (Mt.6:9-14). Being Yah'shua's servant does mean that we will often have to give up things we might ordinarily have liked or wanted like a cherished career, our country or even a relationship, remembering whatever sacrifices we make are always compensated many times over.
The second requirement for true discipleship that followes immediately after self-denial is the metaphor of 'taking up your cross'. This does not mean we are necessarily going to die the way Yah'shua did, or even that we will necessarily be a martyr at all, though it could. It means, quite simply that we must be willing to suffer hardships and at times carry heavy loads and responsibilities as part of our service to Him, remembering that the "cross" doesn't just mean a 'torture-stake' here (as most Messianic versions of the Bible tend to render this instrument of execution) but much more because this is a theological concept being represented by a physical object: it means we actually have to die to our old self so that room can be made for the new man (or woman) in Christ that comes when we are spiritually regenerated by Him. And this regeneration can only happen when we are fully surrendered. Yah'shua surrendered His will to the point of being willing to die for us and we in our turn our expected to yield Him the same obedience and love. This means yielding to Him anything He wants - for we seek His pleasure having received His all (Mt.6:33; Lk.14:25-33, Rom.12:1-2; 2 Cor.5:14-15). The taking up of a believer's own cross is just another way of saying we are to give out whole life to Yah'shua - and not just once but, according to Yah'shua on another occasion, "daily" (Lk.9:23).
This means starting each day with the attitude of surrender to His will and laying aside ALL plans for each day until He has given the green light or specifically said 'no'. It doesn't mean we must be martyred every day - obviously - it simply means we must die to self-will every day until it becomes a 'natural'. But since this is required daily, clearly it does not come 'spontaneously' and involves a long struggle. The self does not yield to death easily. That desire and willingness has to be cultivated, as any married carnal woman who desires to follow the divine tavnith or pattern in marriage knows as she seeks to yield her will to her husband's. This process is what constitutes - in the broader sphere - repentance. It is constantly altering direction until we at pointing at Yah'shua's will and away from our own. And since the flesh is with us until we die, this is not something we can neglect. Repetance is dying to self.
The bottom line is that we make a total sacrifice of our self so that we can please Yah'shua, just as Yah'shua made a total sacrifice of His self so that He could please His and our Heavenly Father by purchasing us from death and hell which we deserved for our sins.
We begin by denying self and carrying our cross, and end by getting lost...in Yah'shua! For it is only in getting lost that we can be found...lost not in the sense of not knowing where we are, but lost from self and lost to Yah'shua. If we do not lose our life in this way we will completely lose it anyway. It's not as though there is a valid alternative. It's like there is only one law of gravity, so there is only one law of positive losing...a losing that enables us to gain all. If we refuse to lose in this way, instead of gaining all, we will permanently lose for eternity.
This is the essence of discipleship. This is what following Yah'shua really means. This is how Yah'shua lived and this is how He in His turn bids us live. Anything else is not genuine Christianity. This is what dying to self means.