Jesus’ Commentary On Christianity: Part 1
Have you ever glossed over the titles of books in a religious book store or a “self-help” section? Typically you find a picture of a very successful looking man or woman with a million-dollar smile sprawled across the front cover. Some of these titles suggest that Christianity is all about “Becoming a Better You.” This form of marketing appeals to a popular mentality that “God wants me to be happy, and to be the best me that I can be…” Apparently if Jesus ever wrote a book (and He did through inspiration), it wouldn’t exactly fit in with most books in the religious section. In fact, Jesus preached quite the opposite message for those who want to follow Him.
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
Jesus here says that Christianity is NOT about you! In fact, Christianity is so far on the opposite end of the spectrum that it is impossible to follow Jesus while “you” are still in the picture. Jesus gives three imperative commands which must all be in place for “anyone” to come after Him: We must 1.) deny ourselves; 2.) crucify ourselves; 3.) follow Him. Over the next three weeks we’re going to be looking at each one of these commands separately.
Jesus commands that we must first deny ourselves. Many people take this to mean that we are supposed to refrain from some of our personal vices (e.g. hobbies, foods, interests, time, etc.). However this is NOT what this word conveys. This word literally means “to disclaim association with a person or event; deny, repudiate, disown.” This is exactly what Peter did to Jesus on the night He was betrayed in his “denial.” Peter ‘disowned’ Jesus in the presence of others 3 times, even cursing and making a vow to God that he did “not know this man you are talking about!” (Mark 14:71). By seeing how this same word refers to Peter’s actions, we learn that this is much more meaningful then “giving up some weekends.”
Jesus is commanding that we must totally disown our ‘old self.’ This is the person we were who lived totally for our own goals, desires, and interests; who chose our own will over God’s will. This is the person to whom we must consciously say, “I do not know this man!” Think of the logic in this command of Jesus. If we are able to totally disown that old person we used to be, then what will happen when we are tempted with sinful pleasures or when we are persecuted for the name of Jesus? If we’re resolved that this old man simply does not exist, then the only One we will side with is the Lord Jesus. This is what it takes to stay faithful to Jesus until death in a world that wants to tear us away from God. The first step in biblical Christianity is completely disowning the person we used to be. According to Jesus, we simply cannot be His disciple if we are still in the picture.