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What does it mean to deny yourself? Why did Jesus say to do this?

Quick Answer: What does it mean to deny yourself? Some teach that Christians need to deny themselves as if their “self” is bad. But in Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus is not speaking of an ongoing denial of self. He is talking about a one-time decision to deny our old self (in Adam) and become a new self (in Christ). Now that you are the new self, you should not deny your new self, your new heart, or your new desires. You should instead count yourself dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11).

Diving Deeper: Popular Christian teaching suggests that we need to deny ourselves. But this is not actually the message of Scripture for the born-again believer.

In Matthew 16:24-26, Jesus states that if anyone wants to follow Him, they must deny themselves and carry their cross. Yet, Jesus is not talking about an ongoing denial of self after salvation. He’s talking about what occurs when a person is born again.

When we call upon the Lord to be saved, we are renouncing our old life in Adam and looking for new life in Christ. When we trust in Jesus for salvation, our old self is spiritually crucified with Christ and buried (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). We are then raised with Christ to newness of life (Colossians 2:12).

Contrary to popular religious thought, “self” is not a dirty word for the believer. When we believe in Jesus, “self” becomes a beautiful word, because we are the new self (2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 3:10). God doesn’t want us to deny our new selves. He wants us to be ourselves!

Let’s Make It a Conversation!
1. Have you ever felt you should deny yourself to become a better Christian? How did it work?
2. React to this statement: Self is not a dirty word if you’re the new self.
3. React to this statement: Don’t deny yourself. Learn who you are in Christ and be yourself!


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