What Does it Mean to Deny Yourself?

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Mark 8:27-9:1

Finally, the disciples (or at least Peter…) seem to get it! But just when you think they’re starting to grow, they go back to their old ways of thinking about Jesus, and not trusting Him. It just goes to show, being a true believer is a constant struggle to act differently. It’s not some kind of one-time or instant change. You have to work at it your whole life.

I think when Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves, He is not talking about giving up things or going without just for the sake of doing it. He is telling them, like Peter, to focus on divine things (eternal life) before earthly things. Jesus doesn’t want us to starve ourselves or give up our homes. (I mean, unless He specifically calls you to do so, I guess.) He just wants you not to concern yourself with those (food and shelter) above all else. I mean, by all means, save money for retirement, but only after you’ve fulfilled all your divine needs. Does that make sense?

Because, like Jesus says, there’s no point in hoarding a ton of money, or food, or things that you can’t take with you if you were to die tomorrow. For example, preppers. Wouldn’t all of those cans be better served feeding the hungry, instead of locked up until you die? And if some kind of apocalypse does come, you might save your life, but at what expense? You thought of your own needs before those of your neighbor, and that’s definitely not what God calls us to do.

Now, I’m not saying that prepping is inherently wrong. Honestly, it was just the first thing that came to mind and I expanded on it. Obviously each of us must search our hearts and pray about it and come to our own conclusions. But I think, personally, that’s not what God would want me to do. I think He would prefer me to help those who are hungry now over preparing for the possibility of myself being hungry later. I have confidence that God can take care of me if I’m hungry later. But, like I said, that’s just for me personally.

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