To deny yourself means giving up the right to try again without God’s help.
Alright thank you very much, and hello again dear radio friends. How in the world are you? You doing all right today? Well sure, I always wait for you to answer, why not? My father used to say, “Boy, when you ask a question give people time to answer”. The correlate to that was, “Boy when somebody asks you a question, think before you talk”. He never had much formal education, but my, he certainly had a fund of practical wisdom that he tried to impart to his two motherless children.
We’re looking at Mark chapter 8. We’ve come now to verse 34, one of the great passages in the Gospels. Jesus said to the people with His disciples, this is not just to apostles, this is to people who are paying attention to Jesus and want to follow Him. In other words, for you and for me. Start out with the word, “Whosoever”. I just went through the concordance looking at all the whosoever’s. That’s a good study. I’m going to do a program or two sometime, God willing, on the whosoever’s of the Bible. “Whosoever will”, said He, “come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me”. Two different words that are used, “come after me”, verb which means just to follow or walk along with, but then He says, “take up his cross and follow me”, and that has the idea belonging to me, really belong to me and share in my life and purposes and will.
So now, let’s think about this, shall we? “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, for whosoever will save his life, for himself that is, shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospels, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or having lost it, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul”? How can you buy it back in other words. “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His father with the holy angels”. That’s quite a passage. Well, let’s look at it.
Starts with a whosoever. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. there’s a whosoever of salvation. Romans 10:13 occurs to me, as I think about this just now. “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved”. There’s the whosoever of answered prayer in connection with the desire to get right with God, and then I think also Revelation 22:17, a verse that I learned as a boy, “Whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely. The Spirit and the bride say come, let him that heareth say come and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely”. The offer, the free offer of God’s grace and salvation in this world and in the next, whosoever. Now, this is a challenging passage and if you take it seriously, it is going to change your life. So fasten your seatbelt, the air may get a little bumpy, but if you take this passage seriously, it’s going to make a difference in your life.
First of all, it’s up to you. God will never force you to go any farther spiritually, than you wish to go. Now, He may allow circumstances to nudge you a little. I told you yesterday about the man in the hospital who said, “God had to get me here so He can get my attention”. Well, God may allow circumstances to give you little nudge in the direction of obeying His Will, but when it comes right down to it, it’s up to you, “Whosoever will”. Now, before we were move on then, let’s just ask this question: How much have you actually made up your mind to serve the Lord Jesus Christ? In what areas of life and how earnestly, how intensely, how sincerely, how determinedly, have you made up your mind go God’s way? I find that many people have a vague commitment to Christ, but when it comes to particulars they’re little shaky. Would some of us fit into that category, I wonder? Yes I love the Lord, yes I trust Christ as my Savior, yes I expect to get to heaven, yes I do want to do God’s Will, but in some special matters, day by day, I’m not quite so clear about following the Lord. Does that come anywhere near the truth in your life? I guess all of us have to own up to the fact that that’s true of us, from time to time at least. Now, what our Lord is saying is make up your mind. You do have to decide whether or not Jesus is Lord of all. That’s up to you. Whether or not He’s going to run things in your life.
I remember standing in the darkness behind a church, in a church garden, and hearing two people talking, two men, and the one said, “Now, I don’t mind that that you’re dating my sister”, but he said, “you seem not to be very sure of what you want. I noticed that you’re squiring some of the rest of the girls around”, and he said, “Now I want to promise you if you break her heart and play with her affections, you have me to reckon with”. I never eavesdrop, but in that case I couldn’t avoid overhearing this conversation, which ended with, “You better make up your mind”. Yes, they got married and they’ve been happily married for 40 years. Everything’s fine. Make up your mind.
Now, you say, well how do I do that Brother Cook? Well you do it just the way you do anything else that you decide. You say, I have to get the car greased today, I’ll decide to do that today. There’s a pile of mail on your desk and you say, I’ve got to get at that today, so you decide to do it. I’m like most of the rest of the husbands in the world, I like to put off the inevitable chores of housecleaning, and I’ll say to my dear wife of 51 years, “Do you have to do it today”? Does that sound familiar fellows? You have to do it today, and like as not the answer comes back, yes I have to do it, we have to get at it. See now, there are the ordinaries of life, aren’t they, and we don’t wince at that. We know that there are certain things concerning which you have to make up your mind. Well now, take that same kind of horse sense logic and transfer it into the realm of eternal matters, and find your Savior saying, “Do you really want to follow me”? You have to make up your mind. Certain things are involved. If you decide certain things are going to follow, but the decision is up to you.
Would you today join me in a prayer this says, Lord Jesus I do want to follow you. I do want to walk with you. I do want you to be Lord of all of my life. I do want you to guide every step of the way. Tell Him so and then follow through with the rest of the instructions that will find in this blessed of verse in Mark eight. “Whosoever will come after Me”.
Small thought here; your destiny is always determined by that which you are following as an ideal. You decide you want to be a millionaire, you may become one, but in the process your character, your relationships, your family, and all of your life will be determined by that which you are following as an ideal. You want to be popular and to be admired by people? Work at it and you can succeed, but in the process your whole life will have been altered by that ideal that you’re following.
So, it is with the Lord Jesus Christ. If you decide to follow Him, “Come after Me”, follow Him as your ideal then all of your life, and your character, and your relationships, your ultimate destiny will be changed because of the ideal that you’re following. Destiny is determined by the ideals that men and women follow. What is your ideal? Have you thought about that? For the most part I think we take our commitment to Christ as more or less of a profession and a point of view, rather than a working relationship. How often during the day do you pause and say, “Dear Jesus what you want me to do about this”? If you would adopt that procedure, I can promise you that things will be a great deal different and better, from time to time. “Come after Me”. Now then He says, “What’s involved? If you make up your mind about this, then He says, “Let him deny himself”. What does that mean? Does that mean you’re going to be sort of a little nobody, just an inconspicuous blob on the page of history? No. God made you a person with a personality, and I don’t find anywhere in the Bible that, to be spiritual, involves being a nobody. God takes the person that is you, and if you give yourself to Him, He deigns to use you, by His grace, but all of the gifts and all of the abilities that He has built originally into your life, are there to be used, not squashed. You don’t have to become a nobody, you don’t have to crawl into some kind of a shell and just to rot, in the name of being spiritual. “Deny himself”, does not mean to cut yourself down. What it does mean is to cancel out your right to give the orders.
A little boy was saying his prayers, remember that one? Saying his prayers, God do this and God do that? His mother tapped him on the shoulder and interrupted him and said, “Sonny boy, don’t bother giving orders. Just report for duty”. That’s all you and I need to do. “Deny himself”, means cancel out the I, me, and mine factor in your life. I want this or that, what about me, you can’t have it, it’s mine. Cancel out the I, me, and mine factor in your life. Give it over instead to the Lord Jesus Christ.
To deny yourself means giving up the right to try again without God’s help. So many who’ve been under the tyranny and the slavery of drug abuse or alcoholism or other habitual patterns that have taken hold of your life, so many times we’ve said, “Give me another chance, I’ll make it”. Well to deny yourself means to give up the right to have another chance, apart that is from the Lordship of Jesus Christ. “Deny himself”. Well, we’ll talk about that little more the next time we get together.
Dear Father today, give us the grace to put the Lord Jesus Christ first in every part of our lives, teach us what it means to deny ourselves, in His name I pray, Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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