“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
This isn’t the type of feel-good verse you expect to see on a car bumper or coffee mug.
When reflecting on such commands in Scripture, it’s easy to solely focus on the difficulty of abstaining from the pleasures of the flesh.
But is it possible to experience joy in denying yourself?
Understandably, this command to abandon our fleshly desires, ambitions, and purposes has a tremendous gravity to it.
It’s contrary to a culture that so often instructs us to promote ourselves and pursue our own personal happiness.
“You’re number one in life. Do what makes you happy.”
“Live your best life. It’s all about you in the end.”
We frequently hear these or similar statements in our world today.
Is it really that wrong to take times of leisure and enjoy some of the things in our culture? No.
However, with a unified voice, all followers of Christ can confidently exclaim that there is something bigger and greater than ourselves!
There is joy in denying ourselves because it allows us to live life as it was intended.
Mark 8:35 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
Want to live life to the fullest? How best to do this than to deny your fleshly desires and make way for the One who created and defines life?
We deny ourselves not to live a life that is empty or void, but because we know the author of life and understand that this abandonment must occur in order to truly live life to the fullest.
We save our lives from living only for things that will eventually pass and aren’t eternal. In return, we live a life filled with purpose and that allows Christ to shine through us.
There is joy in denying ourselves because it allows for Christ to increase in our lives.
John 3:30 says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” We must empty our limited selves for Him, as He can do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20).
19th century pastor Charles Spurgeon once said, “The more self sinks, the more Christ rises: like the two scales of balance, one must go down that the other may go up: self must sink in repentance that Christ may rise by faith.”
With that, we know the more we sink while following Christ’s command to deny ourselves, the more joy rises.
Jesus makes that clear in John 15:11-12 when he says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
May Christ rise and be preeminent in the lives of those who deny themselves so that our joy may be full!
There is joy in denying yourself because it brings a missional focus.
The result of Christ increasing in our lives as we deny ourselves is a life committed to the good news of the Gospel.
There is tremendous joy in the proclamation of the Gospel to our friends, family, and colleagues.
Taking part in the Great Commission and watching people come to the realization that they need a personal relationship with Christ should always be a joyful and celebrated experience for Christians.
We see this in the early church.
“So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.” (Acts 15:3 ESV)
There’s no denying it. Denying yourself produces a marvelous joy.
The truth of the matter is that this life is not our own. We have died to our former self and have found life in Christ.
As we follow the path of Christ, let us deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow our Lord.
This path of following Jesus can undoubtedly be tough and countercultural in many ways, however, it is one that is filled with an abundance of joy.
Let us walk this path together. Deny yourself so your joy may be full!