Two Words You Never Hear Together
When was the last time you saw a billboard, magazine ad, pop-up, or commercial that told you to "deny yourself"?
OK, well, how about TV personalities, celebrities, government officials, policy-makers, professors, and other intellectuals? Who is saying, "Deny yourself"?
… crickets …
We live in a society where the media tells us, "Indulge yourself," and voices from the podium declare, "Affirm yourself."
Yet, 2,000+ years ago, Jesus Christ told His disciples and followers, "Deny yourselves."
A few months ago, I felt pressed to study this concept. So, naturally, I procrastinated and put it off. Finally, after months and months, I read the verses in Matthew, Mark, Luke and 3 Nephi that tell us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.
I initially bristle at being told, "Deny yourself," or, "Control yourself," or simply, "No." Yet, it's often exactly what I need to hear. I huff and puff and retort, "You're not the boss of me," or, "How dare you judge me."
I'd much rather hear ear-ticklers like these: "I have my reasons." "It's just the way I am." "I want to."
I need to do more than believe in Christ. I need to actually follow Him.
I don't want to spend all day pushing the rock up the hill only to find that it's rolled back down to the bottom come morning. I yearn to live for something greater than my own piddley little kingdom.
I think that this resonates somewhere in you, too. Humans are hard-wired for selfishness, yet we've also got this open port that's buzzing and sparking with electricity, waiting for the right connection to plug itself in … so we're no longer isolated and alone. We're attached to something greater — attached to our Creator.
But, these scriptures tell me that the first step toward that Christ-connection is denying myself.
I'm afraid that the worldly messages of indulge yourself, satisfy yourself, and affirm yourself are so, so, so tidal-wave strong, and have been for generations, that I don't even know what "deny yourself" means, really — what Jesus intended it to mean.
It's my personal goal to explore these scriptures and the concept of "deny yourself" in the New Year and blog about what I discover. I hope to answer these simple questions:
- What does "deny yourself" really mean?
- Why does it matter and what's at stake?
- Deny myself of what things specifically?
- What's the benefit of doing something so contrary to "human nature"?
Challenge! Post a comment with scriptures that can point me in the right direction as I begin this journey.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.