His House

Deny Your Self and Take Up Your Cross

Many Christians have found it very difficult to get God's specific direction for choices that must be made in their daily lives, which has caused much frustration or even disillusionment for many. You will find that most Christians who have been Christians for many years have long since given up on trying to get God's direction and have instead resorted to using their own intellect and will to make decisions, and then ask God to bless their endeavors. At the end of this message, I'm going to give you the key to finding God's direction in your every day life, so keep that in the back of your mind as you read.

Luke 9:23,24 NIV
23. Then He said to them all, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

In this passage of scripture, Jesus himself describes a true disciple, or describes the means for becoming such. He says that if you are going to follow Him, you must deny yourself. Notice self-denial is not optional. He states that you MUST deny yourself if you are to follow Him, and then gives the reason for this. He states one of the immutable laws of the kingdom, which is this: If you save your life you will lose it, and if you lose your life for His sake, you will find it.

So, we see in this verse that in order to follow Jesus, or as he said, to "come after Him", you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily. Perhaps we could say it this way, if you want to be where He is, if you want to be with Him, if you want to walk with Him, if you want to live in His presence, you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily.

Now, that's fine, but, what does it mean to deny yourself? Does it mean that rather than enjoy the things that you enjoy in this life, that you must deny those things and make yourself miserable? Does it mean that you live poorly and miserably, and deny yourself nice things, or nice food, or nice whatever? I'm going to tell you what Jesus is talking about when He says you must deny yourself, and take up your cross daily.

To deny yourself means that, through an act of love, you surrender your right to do what you want rather than what He wants.

In other words, you come to a place of surrender to Christ where you no longer reserve the right to do as you will, but only as He wills. You no longer reserve the right to sin. You no longer reserve the right to disobey. You no longer reserve the right to do with your life or any portion of your life as you please. You no longer reserve the right to do with your time as you please. You no longer reserve the right to do with your money, or your mind, or your mouth, or anything else as you please. To deny yourself means you no longer reserve the right to indulge your flesh. You no longer reserve the right to speak evil of another.

You see, as long as you are reserving your right to do as you please, you are saving your life, and Jesus said you cannot come after Him, you cannot be with Him. If you are going to follow after Him, this surrender to His will is to be ever increasing as Christ brings more and more areas of your life under His dominion.

Jesus taught us to pray, "thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as in Heaven." What that means is that His kingship, His authority, His dominion is to rule absolutely in our lives, just as it does in Heaven, where no angel or saint goes about with their own agenda, seeking their own desires, but all are in absolute submission to the will of God.

You see, as He wins your heart more and more, your desire will be to surrender more and more of our life to Him. When He brings you to this place of surrender, the first area of your life He will bring under His dominion is this: you will no longer be able to reserve the right to sin, to do things that you know are displeasing to Him. Will you sin? Yes, you will, but you will no longer reserve the right to sin. You will no longer reserve the right to deliberately disobey His commands, even if they are inconvenient.

Probably the next area of your life that He will bring under His dominion is your time. You will no longer reserve the right to do with your day as you please. When you come to this place of surrender to Christ, He will very quickly let you know what time you are to arise in the morning, daily prayer and bible study will no longer be optional, and you will begin to seek Him for what to do with free time, or time that is not already spoken for, because it's not really free, it belongs to Him already, you'll just have to find out what He wants you to do with it.

Another area that He will eventually bring under His dominion is your spending. You will no longer be able to spend as much as you want on what you want, but you will stay within a budget that He will lay out for you, and you will make major purchases only at His direction.

Now, in my life, there are still many areas that have not been brought under His dominion, just as there are many areas of my home that are out of order or areas of my yard that are overgrown with weeds, but little by little, day by day He is bringing more and more under His dominion. What is His dominion? His dominion is the Kingdom of God, and in the Kingdom of God He rules utterly, He is the sovereign, He is King.

If you are to be where Jesus is, if you are to follow Him, if you are to have the manifested presence of God to be with you, you can no longer reserve the right to do as you please. You must do as He pleases. You can no longer segregate your life. Right now, you have devotional time, church time, work time, and your own time. To lose your life for His sake means that you can no longer reserve part of your life for yourself. You can't say, "this is my time, I've done good all day, now it's my time to sit in front of the t.v. if I feel like it." If you are going to follow Jesus, you can't reserve the right to enjoy the things that grieve Him. You cannot reserve the right to please yourself instead of Him. Yes, you will stumble often. Yes, you will displease Him, but if you are going to follow Christ, and walk with Him, you cannot reserve the right to displease Him. I'm sorry but that is the way it is in His kingdom.

Now, you may say, "That's bondage, that's legalism!" Yes, it is bondage, no, it is not legalism, and we'll get to that in a moment, but first, I want to restate what I have said in a different way, so that you understand more clearly what I am saying.

In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up His cross DAILY and follow me. I want you to notice the word "daily".

You see, when you surrender your life to Jesus your days become temples for the presence of God, rather than vehicles for your own purposes and pleasure.

When you surrender your life to Jesus your days become temples for the presence of God, and everything you do during your day becomes worship unto Christ. The more areas of your life He brings under His dominion, the more acts of worship you offer to Him throughout your day. When I feed Grandma and clean her face, I am feeding and cleaning Jesus. When I wash the dishes and clean the house, I am worshipping Jesus. When I plain or sand a board, or clean my shop, I am worshipping Jesus. All through my day, all I have to do is just look up, and I can see His smiling face and I can connect with Him and pour out my love to Him, for He is always near by.

Psalms 37:23 NLT, "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives."

You see, when you deny yourself and take up your cross daily, every little detail of your life and your daily routine will be a delight to God, for it will be worship unto Him. Worship will no longer be something you do, but something you live. You will become a living sacrifice, and remember, Rom. 12:1 says that this is your reasonable act of worship.

Is this legalism? No. First of all, if your motive is legalism rather than love, it simply won't work. Have you ever seen a little bitty child playing with a toy and you go to take the toy away? "Mine!" he says. That's something that a baby does not have to learn, it is innate, it is already a part of the human nature from birth. Selfishness and the instinct of self preservation is so strong in mankind that no legalistic, religious, coerced, or noble motives could ever be strong enough to over come the selfish nature of man. The only power in the universe strong enough to cause you to lay down your life daily for Christ's sake is the power of love. So, no, what I am speaking of is not legalism, for I am not talking about bringing your life under the dominion of laws but under the dominion of the Spirit of Christ. It is not obedience to a doctrine, but obedience to Jesus Christ. Paul wrote that I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me. (Gal. 2:19,20)

So, Is it legalism? No.
Is it bondage? Yes.
Ex. 21:2-6 NIV says:
2. If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. but in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything.
3. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him.
4. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.
5. But if the servant declares, "I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,"
6. then his master must take him before the judges (or before God). He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

This is the law concerning the bondservant. A bondservant is one who willingly gives up his freedom for slavery to his master because he loves his master, and so his ear is pierced, and he wears an earring as a sign of his surrender of love. The bondservant is a love slave, one who is bound to his master and never wants to be free. Psalms 40:6 says, "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ear hast thou pierced, burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Verse 8 says, "I delight to do thy will O my God: yeah, thy law is in my heart." "My ear hast thou pierced, I delight to do thy will O my God."

You see, sacrifice and offerings do not please God. The only thing that pleases God is obedience to His will by those whose ears have been pierced. I Sam. 15:22 says, "to obey is better than sacrifice."

So, is this bondage? Yes, it is bondage. We are bound by love's strong cords. We are bound by the desire to please the one we love, and we WILL seek to please the one we love, whether it's ourselves or God. I'm bound and never want to get free, in fact, I fear being free. I want to surrender more and more of my life, for I know that if I save my life, I will lose it, but if I lose my life for Him I will find it.

John 14:21 NIV says,
21. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. John 14:23 says,
23. If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Have you ever read Brother Lawrence's book, 'The Practice of the Presence of God'? This is what his book is presenting. This is how to have the presence of God in your life.

Now I'm going to give you the secret to getting direction from God in your every day life: Do you want to know the secret?
Get your ear pierced. As long as you reserve the right to do as you please, God won't bother telling you what would please Him. Once in a while He may speak to you, and often He will direct you through circumstance because He loves you and cares for you, but until you have surrendered your will to Him, you won't be able to go to Him and get answers to your questions. My ear hast thou pierced, I delight to do thy will.

I remember a time when I felt for several weeks that there was something between the Lord and myself. I wasn't sure there was, but it seemed as though something was wrong. I couldn't just look up and find that place of communion with Him. I told my wife Tanya (then girlfriend) about it and was asking the Lord if something was wrong. Finally, I began to feel that several weeks ago, He had laid upon my heart that I was to start drinking carrot and kale juice, just as I used to do years ago when I had some health problems. I felt that it was God's gentle direction, and that I had disregarded it. I repented and that night I fixed a glass of juice and the wall between us came down. I shared this with Tanya and she realized something that God had revealed to her that she was to be doing every night, but had not been doing. She repented and did it that night and afterward had a wonderful prayer time.

You see, it's the little things that are the measure of eternity. Jesus said, "he that is faithful in little will be faithful in much and he that is unfaithful in little will be unfaithful in much." God requires absolute obedience, and obedience will only come from love. Jesus said, "He that has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me."

Let me ask you, "do you love Him?" Have you given up your right to run your own life, to run your own day, to do as you please? If you haven't given up that right, if you haven't denied yourself and taken up your cross, then you're not where He is. You're not following Jesus. If you don't have His commands and obey them, then you really don't love Him.

I wonder, does this message cause you to see some disturbing things in your life? If so, then there's hope for you. Some of you may be thinking, "dear God, I thought I loved you, but I really don't." Some of you are thinking about something you know the Spirit of God revealed to you that you are supposed to be doing, but you have ignored Him. Some of you may be thinking, that sounds like bondage and I want nothing of it. If that's what you're thinking, I can assure you this isn't for you. However, I warn you with the words of Jesus, you will lose your life. If you save your life, you will lose it.

Luke 9:23,24 NIV
23. Then He said to them all, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.


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