“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Self-denial is the highest sign of a sincere Christian. Hypocrites may have great knowledge and make large profession, but it is only the true-hearted believer who can deny himself for Christ.
Self-denial is the foundation of godliness, and if this foundation is not well-laid, the whole building will fall. If there is any lust in our souls which we cannot deny–it will turn at length, either to scandal or apostasy. Self-denial is the thread which must run along through the whole work of piety.
A man must deny self-esteem. Every man by nature has a high opinion of himself. He is drunk with spiritual pride. A proud man disdains the cross. He thinks himself too good to suffer. Oh deny self-esteem! Let the plumes of pride fall off! Let us shake off this viper of pride!
A man must deny carnal self. This I take to be the chief sense of the text. He must deny fleshly ease. The flesh cries out for ease. It is loath to put its neck under Christ’s yoke or stretch itself upon the cross. The flesh cries out, “Oh! the cross of Christ is heavy!
We must deny our self-ease, stopping our ears to the charmings of the flesh! Those who lean on the soft pillow of sloth, will hardly take up the cross.
This self-denying frame of heart is very hard.
This is “to pluck out the right eye.” It is easier to overcome men and devils, than to overcome self. “Stronger is he who conquers himself, than he who conquers the strongest walled city.”
SELF is the idol, and how hard it is to sacrifice this idol–and to turn self-seeking into self-denial! But though it is difficult, it is essential. A Christian must first lay down self, before he can take up the cross.
Alas! how far are they from self-denial, who cannot deny themselves in the least things; who in their diet or apparel, instead of martyring the flesh, pamper the flesh! Instead of taking up the cross, take up their cups! Oh Christians, as ever you would be able to carry Christ’s cross, begin to deny yourselves.