Understanding Jesus’ Call to Deny Ourselves

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? (Matthew 16:24-26)

This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies (disowns) me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. (Matthew 10:32-33)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

All of us are probably familiar with these words of Jesus to his disciples: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We probably can relate to what Jesus meant when he said to take up our cross, since we recognize that we too will experience some type of pain and suffering in our own life. But what is Jesus asking of us when he tells us we must deny ourselves. I believe he is asking us if we are willing to disown ourselves and give ownership to him. Are we willing to say to Jesus, “My life is not my own, it belongs to you.”

Brothers, this is what Jesus wants for all of you: he wants a relationship of loving surrender and trust! Awe-inspiring as he is, he wants to refresh us and lead us. He wants to show us the paths of life—the way of obedience, humility, and submission to him. This is why Jesus asks us to deny ourselves: so that we can draw closer to him.

Of course, Jesus also knows that as we deny ourselves—in whatever way we choose—we are telling ourselves that we want more of him. We are telling ourselves that the world is not our final home and that we are longing to see Jesus more clearly. Whether we deny ourselves from overindulging in food, TV, or alcohol, or we refrain from negative or critical comments and other sinful behavior, it opens our hearts to receive more of the Lord. He may even call us to deny something that is not sinful in itself, e.g., spending less time reading the newspaper, so we can spend more time with him in prayer. All of these “self-denials” will help deepen our faith in the Lord.

Even today, Jesus stands at the door of your heart, asking you to let him in (Revelation 3:20) and make him truly the Lord of your life. His voice, full of authority and power, won’t overwhelm you. It may convict you or call you to deeper self-denial, holiness, and submission; but it will never condemn you or curse you. No, he is merciful and compassionate. He created you to hear his voice, know his touch, obey his words, and follow him (John 10:27).

Brothers, Jesus is with us always, to the “end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He wants to do so much in our lives. He wants us to enjoy our life with him. So don’t be afraid to give Jesus everything you have. It already belongs to him. Welcome him into your heart today. Sit quietly with him. Read Scripture, talk to him, and listen for his voice. Tell him that you want to follow him, obey him, and surrender everything to him. Tell him you want to decrease so that he can increase in you. Tell him you are willing to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow him.

“Jesus, I trust that you are always beside me. Help me stay close to you. Show me in practical terms, what it means to deny myself. I want to hear and obey your voice today and always.”

(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at (Enable Javascript to see the email address) or (Enable Javascript to see the email address).)

 [Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]

Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men

Take some time to meditate and reflect on the Scriptures at the beginning of the article. What do you think God is trying to say to you through them?

What is your reaction to Jesus’ call to you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him? What do you think it means for you.

The article gives some examples of ways we can deny ourselves in response to Jesus’ call? What are the practical implications of this call for your life?

In the article, we hear these words: “So don’t be afraid to give Jesus everything you have. It already belongs to him.” Do you believe that everything you have belongs to Jesus? If you do, how faithful are you to living this out in your life? What steps can you take to be more faithful?

If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that each of you would have the grace to truly surrender all of your lives to Jesus for the rest of your lives. Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point for your prayers.

Maurice Blumberg is the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us Partners, (http://www.waupartners.org/), a ministry of The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org) to the Military, Prisoners, and women with crisis pregnancies or who have had abortions. Maurice was also the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), for which he is currently a Trustee. He can be contacted at  mblumberg@wau.org or mblumberg@aol.com.