The Trumpet Sounds: ‘Facing the fears of self-denial’

By Barry Pettit - Religion Writer

This Sunday at South Side we will unpack our final sermon in our series “Haunted House.” In this series we have talked about how to overcome different types of fears we have as Christ followers. This Sunday we will talk about overcoming the fear to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus daily. The phrase “deny oneself”—so characteristic of the life of a true Christian—is found in Scripture in only one of Jesus’ sayings to His disciples: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mark 8:34. The Greek word translated “deny” literally means “to say no.” Luke’s version of Jesus’ teaching adds that we must do this daily. But what does Jesus mean that a person must deny self?

Jesus calls upon us to reject the natural human inclination to serve self. The first step is to submit and surrender to God our will, our affections, our bodies, and our lives. Our own pleasures and happiness can no longer be primary goals. Instead, we must be willing to renounce all and lay down our lives. Peter tells us to “no longer live … in the flesh,” meaning we should no longer pursue wrong desires. Are we willing to give up everything including our lives? At the core of following Jesus we must to love Him and to deny the flesh daily.

Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow His example. This call is not so much a call to physically die as it is a command to deny self or, crucify the flesh, even to the point of death. We must be prepared to die, if that is where the course of events leads, but in most cases it is not so much literal death as it is to have the attitude of self-denial that is willing to give up everything. Christ followers live to serve God, not self. Paul teaches us to put off our former behavior, and put to death our sinful actions. How does self-denial relate to temptation? As soon as we are tempted, we must begin to deny ourselves the wrong desire. Jesus calls us to practice self-denial in our actions even before we do them. Temptations vary according to the situations of each person. What may be an easy self-denial for one may be tough to resist for another. Appetite, material goods, worldly ambitions, personal prestige and sexual desires are very common areas where self-denial is tough for many.

Have you ever thought about how Jesus denied himself daily? Jesus teaches self-denial to His disciples not only with His words but also by His actions. Notice that His call to self-denial comes immediately after predicting His own sacrificial death. He is the supreme model of the self-denial to which He calls others. He even denies Himself any urge to avenge Himself or to threaten His persecutors for what they had done to Him. In Jesus’ example, we see that, by committing ourselves to God who judges rightly, we deny ourselves the temptation of worldly lusts. The concept of self-denial is at the heart of Paul’s teaching on submission to God: We have died with Christ and must sacrifice our lives for Him. In Titus 2:12, Paul writes of the grace of God training us to overcome ungodliness and worldly passions, that is, to deny what the self-desires. Self-denial requires genuine humility in submission or it is insincere. A somewhat different use of the concept deny oneself occurs in II Timothy 2:13. God is faithful and cannot deny His character or His promises (Romans 3:3). However, a comparison of Paul’s statement with Jesus’ call to self-denial is enlightening. God, being so different from self-centered men, has nothing in His perfect character that needs to be denied. In His perfect goodness, God can only affirm Himself.

The New Testament calls us to deny ourselves, but never to deny Jesus or the Father (Matthew 10:33; II Peter 2:1; I John 2:22, 23; Jude 4; Revelation 2:13; 3:8). Luke 18:28-30 tells us that if we deny ourselves—and even our family members, if necessary—for the sake of the Kingdom of God, we will be rewarded many times over. Overcoming the fears of self-denial means we have to completely trust God with our lives. This Sunday at South Side we will unpack this message further. Keep in mind worship begins at 10:45. Come early and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and snack at Café Connect. We also have our annual “Totally Free Trunk or Treat” event for the entire community at 5 in the afternoon. There will be tons of candy, games, inflatables, food, and much more for all ages to enjoy! We hope to see you there as we continue to partner with our community to be better together!

In Christ,

Barry Pettit

Lead Pastor

South Side Church of Christ

By Barry Pettit

Religion Writer