What Does It Mean To Deny Yourself? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Christians are told to deny themselves. What does that mean?  How can a believer deny themselves along the biblical lines that we are commanded to do so?

Deny Oneself

The first thing that came to mind is to deny oneself at the expense of or for the sake of Jesus being glorified. That is the chief purpose for which we were created, wasn’t it?  Aren’t we to deny ourselves and esteem others better than ourselves and live a Christ-like life for His glory?  When we deny what we want and put others ahead of ourselves and also when we deny ourselves for Christ’s glory, then we are following what I believe we are commanded to do.  Where is this evident in the Bible?  We must rely on God’s Word and not on human opinion because God’s Word cannot be broken but humans frequently break their promises.

What Does It Mean To Deny Yourself

How to Deny Yourself

Jesus told us plainly how we should deny ourselves in this life in Luke 9:23: “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Notice that Jesus said it to “all” and not just the disciples.  If anyone is really serious about following Jesus or as He said would “come after me” then they must deny themselves and by necessity this includes taking up “His cross daily.”  That means this should be a daily undertaking…not just on occasions or when it is convenient.   To deny oneself is to deny what we want and sometimes what we need.  We all like to be well thought of and to be respected but that is not God’s goal for us.  We must take up, not our cross, but Christ’s cross and do it daily.  What was Jesus’ cross? He lived for others and died for sinners.  He gave His life willingly for those of us who didn’t deserve it.  That means that you and I should put our own interests behind the interests of others.  There is more in this 9th chapter of Luke that Jesus says.

Luke 9:24-26 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

If we gain all the friends in the world in order to save face or save our lives, we’ll end up losing it but if we lose our life for Jesus’ sake then we “will save it” for all eternity.  Jesus uses the word “for” between verses 25 and 26 which essentially means “because” so we can read it like this: “Because whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  The word “for” being “because” ties in Jesus’ previous words to say that if we try to save our life then we’ll end up losing our soul but if we lose our lives, then we’ll end up saving our soul.  Why does He put it this way?  Because if we lose our “own” lives for Jesus’ sake, that means that we’ll not be denying Him before others which is a sin of omission.  That is, when we fail to proclaim Jesus as our Lord and Savior we are denying Him by our silence.  The sin of silence is a sin of omission and it is no different than a sin of commission. We are still going to be held accountable for it.

Denying Yourself but Not Christ

Just the other day I had a chance to talk to three young men sitting in a restaurant and so, fearful as I was, I asked them if I could sit down with them and ask them a few questions.  After some small talk I asked them “Who is Jesus to you?”  I went on to talk about the wrath of God on those who have broken His laws and have not ever repented and had their sins forgiven.  My palms were sweaty, my heart was pounding, and my brow began to sweat a little.  What I did, and believe me I have failed to do this numerous times, was to deny myself and take a risk of being rejected, scorned, made fun of, and thought of as being narrow minded (since I speak of Jesus being the only way to be saved as in Acts 4:12). I don’t want Jesus to say “You were ashamed of me and my words (the written Word of God) and never told anyone that you believed in Me.  You tried to save yourself from embarrassment and humiliation by denying to tell sinners that they need to repent.  Since you tried to saved your life, you will lose it!”  That is what I believe Jesus is saying in the 9th chapter of Luke.  If we don’t deny ourselves we will deny Christ.  If we do deny ourselves we won’t deny Jesus.  That difference is of supreme importance and has eternal ramifications.

For Him or Against Him

There is no sitting on the fence as far as Christ is concerned.  You are either saved or you are lost.  There is no indecision.  To make no decision is to make the decision to reject Christ.  The late Adrian Rogers said that there are only two kinds of people; the saints and the aint’s.  There is no middle ground.  There is no neutrality.  Jesus said that “for the one who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50).  If you are not for Christ then you are against Him.  If you deny Him He will surely deny you on the day of His visitation because Jesus said that “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:23).  I believe what Jesus is saying is that if you are not gathering or entering into the fields of the harvest and taking place in the labor for men’s and women’s souls, then you might as well be scattering.  The farmer sees the harvest.  If he doesn’t gather, the wind will scatter.  If you are not participating in the imperative command of the Great Commission, then you are sinning the sin of the “great omission.”  Not gathering is seen by Jesus as scattering. If you live no differently from the world and care not to rescue the perishing, Charles Spurgeon once wrote “Then you yourself are not saved.”  I know that sounds drastic but if you had the cure for cancer and kept it to yourself, wouldn’t that almost be the same thing as negligent homicide?

Conclusion

I beg you to seek that which is lost for that is why Jesus came and He Himself proclaimed “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  Jesus says to follow me and then to “Go!” for Me into all the world, even if it’s right next door (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  One of my favorite songs is called Rescue the Perishing by Fanny Crosby.1  Just read some of these lyrics:

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;

Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide.

Take a look at this related article: What Does it Mean to Take up Your Cross Daily?

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 1. Crosby, Fanny.  1869. Appeared in Songs of Devotion (New York: Biglow & Main, 1870).

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

DocReits September 11, 2014 at 12:05 am

Thank you Pastor Jack for this thought provoking article. This time my gears came to a halt when you stated:

“We must take up, not our cross, but Christ’s cross and do it daily.” You qualified what Christ’s Cross was by stating, “That means that you and I should put our own interests behind the interests of others” as Christ did by dying for others.

Amen! I paused a moment upon my first reading because I have always thought of Christ’s Cross as being this incredible weight which contained all of the sin of the world, past, present and future, ” and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed”(1 Pet 2:24).

Then it hit me that we are one with Christ in death and Resurrection. We are buried with Christ in baptism, our sins nailed to His Cross(Col 2:12-14), and that we now with Christ complete the mystery of God hidden throughout the ages of man, which is now revealed… being God in Christ and Christ in man(Col 1:26,27).

So being “little Christs” we do, through Him, take up our/His Cross by denying ourselves and following. You always make me think, Pastor Jack, and I thank you for that.

Blessings,

DocReits

Reply

Jack Wellman September 11, 2014 at 8:01 am

THanks Doc and of course, you help me grow too my brother. Your such an encouragement and were the only one to comment on this so I appreciate that. It is a daily battle for me brother.

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paul June 12, 2015 at 11:09 am

Thank You very much for the explanation. I’m not confused that myself, like many others, are often guilty of “over-analyzing” what Christ taught. As evidence by us being here in search of answers of truth.
I read recently in the “Complete Jewish Bible” about how easy it is for our faith interpretation to be distracted by the “legalities”(mans’ interpretations). There is an underlying argument among many Christian churches about which interpretation is most accurate, to the point of the denomination often, ridiculing and pushing away the follower’s if they don’t fully comply with distorted versions of their legalities.
I once had pastor get upset when I asked a new member “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” outside/after a service as I welcomed our new brother to our church with a handshake and a smile. As Christian laymen, several of us realized that the pastor had great intention, but was actually trying to induct a new member with a “repeat after me these words” philosophy. We could clearly see that our new brother was never offered a simple opportunity to use his own words, to clearly offer his own intention, to profess his faith in our Lord from his own tongue.
I was verbally scolded by the pastor that day during a bakery sale outside the church when he overheard my comment. This Pastor took my actions defensively and was offended that his method was questioned (although I never directed this at him in any way). I know he meant well and was confounded in his own good intentions. It reminded me of a just a taste of how Jesus must have felt with the well educated Pharisees, they were so caught in “legalities” that they had missed the point of being saved. The top religious figures became threatened by our Lord’s presence because our Lord diminished their grab for power and control.
Our Lord made it so simple that even I can follow his lead.
What we are judged on comes from our hearts… from our hearts we speak with our tongue in each transaction with each other. It is not “innate depravity” and a struggle to become free from a sinful beginning, but rather we were taught that we are each born free of sin as children, so it is the struggle of keeping our God close in our shirt pocket, like a pair of sunglasses, as we traverse the day like children. We do this in the Love and Joy of knowing that our daily adversities and opportunities are God’s way of interacting with us to see if we will TRUST him in HIS solution or celebration.

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Jack Wellman June 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

Thank you Paul for your very gracious and insightful comment. This pastor handled it wrongly in my opinion and being a pastor myself, I think he should not have taken offense at your earnest desire to help this man receive Christ as Lord and Savior. My compliments to you sir that you cared enough about his soul to reach out to him. I do agree with you that this new person should not be led to faith by repeating after the pastor. No one is ever saved by repeating what is called “the sinner’s prayer” or by filling out a decision card or walking down the aisle. I person is only saved when they repent (turn away, forsake their sins) and trust in Christ. You did the right thing and I thank God that there are men like you brother.

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Jack Wellman June 13, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Paul, as Doc previously noted, there is some concern that he and I also have about your comment that ” It is not “innate depravity” and a struggle to become free from a sinful beginning, but rather we were taught that we are each born free of sin as children.” This is completely contrary to the Scriptures. Please, when you have time sir, read this article that is full of biblical evidence to prove that indeed, every human ever born was born into sin and even more so, we were even conceived in sin so we are never free until the Son sets us free. Please read this to see why I can say this with authority sir. http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/why-are-we-born-sinners-a-bible-study/ And please forgive my negligence in responding so late Paul.

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DocReits June 12, 2015 at 2:23 pm

Hi Paul,

Great comments! I was with you until the end of your comments which started here:

“What we are judged on comes from our hearts… from our hearts we speak with our tongue in each transaction with each other. It is not “innate depravity” and a struggle to become free from a sinful beginning, but rather we were taught that we are each born free of sin as children, so it is the struggle of keeping our God close in our shirt pocket, like a pair of sunglasses, as we traverse the day like children. We do this in the Love and Joy of knowing that our daily adversities and opportunities are God’s way of interacting with us to see if we will TRUST him in HIS solution or celebration.”

Who are you referring to who taught us, ” that we are each born free of sin as children”?… and that we are not “innate(ly) depraved? Do you believe that God is “within us” before salvation, and that we are simply on a search mission to discover Him? Do you believe in hell(a place of eternal torment) that all men are condemned to, as soon as we take our first breath?

Just curious. Blessings!

DocReits

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KP De Jager October 18, 2015 at 12:29 am

Thank you pastor Jack
please ad me to mailing list I am stirred by your bibe study and comments

Reply

Jack Wellman October 18, 2015 at 8:21 am

Thank you KP. For us to be added to your emailing list, go to where it says “Free eBook for “15 Answers to Questions on Heaven, Hell, and End Time.” Do you see it on our main webpage? It’s about halfway down.

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michael ciaramitaro February 18, 2017 at 12:11 am

I have been a christian for over 20 years but a lukewarm one at that.I want to give my life to the lord but I am scared that I won’t be any better than I was before.If someone asked me if I was a christian I would say it proudly but I feel I would have a problem witnessing to people especially in todays world.I hate to say this but I am a coward.I was picked on as a kid through junior high to high school and do not have much of a self esteem.My age is 46 and I want to be strong.God Bless.

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Jack Wellman February 18, 2017 at 9:13 am

Hello Michael. I think many of us are shy Christians and are afraid to step out and do what Jesus told us to do (Matt 25:34-40) and very few are helping prisoners, feeding the poor, visiting the sick and so on, and doing nothing for Jesus, so talk to your pastor about this. Try to get into a ministry and you won’t believe how your confidence will grow and by witnessing to others, each one is a bit easier.

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A disciple of Christ October 24, 2017 at 7:41 am

Oh hello, Luke 9:23NIV says ““Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
‭‭http://bible.com/111/luk.9.23.niv

To my understanding, Jesus was talking about his disciples. I mean in a way you could say that we can refer it to everyone, but you can’t deny yourself if you’re still going back to your ways. I think it more of an everyone should know, but not everyone will truly seek him out

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Kuda Ketlogetswe November 2, 2017 at 9:02 am

Thank you Pastor Jack for the well explained article, that had a lot of answers I have been searching for.I really do thank God for leading me to this article.

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Jack Wellman November 2, 2017 at 9:53 am

Hello Kuda. You are so kind. Thank you for the encouragement.

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Tradd February 26, 2018 at 9:12 pm

Thank you for that great article. I just finished listening to Howard Pittman’s nde testimony called “Placebo” how the modern church is asleep. It was good. I realized I am truly not walking with the Lord as strong as I should be. I also need to pray that I truly stay repentant. I struggle with a porn addiction so any prayer is welcomed. I just want to be free because I feel that is my Achilles heal. I also want to get stronger about witnessing and sharing Christ since that is our job.

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Brent Cooper July 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm

look up WIT ministries, Paul and Jenny Speed God bless you

Reply

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