Thesis:The requirements of "discipleship" include the ability to recognize, and deny, one's "self".
Introduction:As we have considered Luke's record of Jesus' questioning of His disciples about His identity, we have seen that Jesus was significantly concerned with whether people would put their trust in Him if they knew what "trust in Him" was going to mean. Jesus was clearly aware that His job was to not only redeem people out of their position under the condemnation of God's Law, but was also to woo them into the actual practice of God's Love. The former aspect of the task was relatively "easy" in one regard: He had only His own commitment to Love with which to deal. But the latter aspect of the task was extremely "formidable" in the same regard: He was dealing with fallen human beings who put "how is this going to affect me?" at the top of their every consideration.
As we have already seen, Jesus demanded that the disciples refrain from telling others that He was "The Christ of the God" because He was about to be subjected to a wholesale rejection by the leaders of the culture in which all of the people lived, and to be put to death by them. Faced with such a patent contradiction between the Life that Love produces and the life to which the people were committed, the people were not going to "believe" in Him if they had to deal with this contradiction in one fell swoop. The grip that Sin has upon the children of men is such that it can only be broken by the incremental development of Love in the hearts of those men. And, that can only occur if those men are "kept in the dark" about the cost of Love while having the benefits of Love demonstrated.
But, there comes a time when the issues must be faced. What Jesus refrained from doing in regard to the crowds, He deliberately did in regard to The Twelve. He pressed them to correctly identify Him as "The Christ of the God" and then He pressed them to decide how they were going to relate to Him as that Christ. It is to this "pressure" that we turn in our study this morning. He said that "coming after Him" was going to require three definitive decisions: the denial of oneself; the daily acceptance of the burden of "the cross"; and a definitive commitment to following Him.
I. The Denial of Oneself.
A. The issue of "denial" is highly instructive.
1. The word used by Jesus is only used in the four Gospels and, except for Luke 12:9, it is only used in the records of this instruction by Jesus and Peter's three-fold denial of Jesus on the night He was betrayed.
2. It is Peter's denial of Jesus that actually gives substance to the meaning of the word.
a. The substance of words is often best grasped when the word describes actions taken in a given setting.
1) By way of illustration, we are supposed to get a good picture of what the word "Love" means when we ponder both 1 John 4:10 and Romans 5:8.
2) The issue, then, of "denial" is best seen in the actions Peter took on that fateful night.
b. Clearly, the word signals a "rejection of association".
3. When one transfers the concrete example of "denial" from Peter's action to the "denial" of which Jesus spoke, the conclusion is that discipleship requires that we "reject our association with ourselves".
a. This rejection concretely means that we actively sever our union with all of that part of us that is Adamically "us".
b. In illustration, this is done by water baptism because, by it, we profess to die to sin and to rise to newness of life.
c. In practice, this is done in two steps.
1) There has to be a definitive presentation of one's body to God as a living sacrifice (it's interesting how people can easily give testimony to their salvation, but stumble over a testimony of their presentation of themselves to God).
2) There has to be a definitive engagement in the processes of the renewal of the mind.
B. The issue of one's "willingness".
1. There is nothing to be said to those who have no such "willingness".
2. The "willingness" is presented by Jesus in "tandem".
a. In 9:23 the "willingness" is to "come after" Jesus.
b. In 9:24 the same "willingness" is addressed in terms of "saving one's soul".
c. This tandem use indicates that Jesus is not dealing with a minor level of "willingness", but is, rather, dealing with a complete commitment to Him at any cost.
1) This is not mayonnaise jar christianity where one wishes the jar was filled with pickles so the outer label is changed but the mayonnaise is not removed and pickles are not put in place.
2) This goes far beyond the label.
3. This "willingness" is presented theologically as the doorway to Life by the Spirit.
a. In Colossians 2:20-23, the apostle Paul clearly taught that there are those who will use the principles of "self-denial" to actually fulfill the greater lusts of the self.
b. This is repeated in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
c. The only counter to this fleshly manipulation is the Spirit of God and the key to His power is our deliberate rejection of our association with the goals of the flesh.
1) There are four basic assumptions in this deliberate rejection of our association with the goals of the flesh.
a) It assumes that one's own preferences will be recognizable as one's own and put aside.
b) It assumes an openness to direction that might be unexpected and "outside the box" in terms of the past.
c) It assumes the death of all "dreams" so that the "vision" of His will fills the perspective.
d) It also assumes the willingness to deny what is extremely appealing in terms of spiritual gifts and the execution of them (who wouldn't like to be a "Daniel", or an "Elijah", or a "Moses", and who wants to be a "nobody" from "nowhere" with "nothing" of any significance on one's plate?).
2) There is one basic practice: a constant stream of appeal to God for His oversight and direction about everything.