“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'” Matthew 16:24-26

There is a story about a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who had a decent heart, but he just couldn’t seem to turn around without finding trouble.  He had been in a few fights, had a couple of run-ins with the law, and was hanging out with guys in a gang.  But then, the new girl started coming to school.  She was sweet, kind, pretty, and just an all-around beautiful young lady.  He was immediately smitten.  The young man sat next to her during the school lunch hour, and they talked every day.  The more he talked to her, he found out what she found undesirable;  the more she talked to him, she found out what his life was like, and she found a lot of things undesirable.
He found himself falling in love, and she found herself having a loving sympathy for him and his plight as she discovered his decent heart.  He started settling down and not getting into as much trouble.  He had determined not to get into any more trouble, and he eventually quit spending as much time with the “toughs” with whom he used to be with constantly.  He was falling in love, and he was deciding to deny the parts of him that she found undesirable so that he could ask her out.
He eventually worked up the courage to ask her out on a date, and she accepted.  They started spending more and more time with each other.  Then the senior prom came, and afterward was college.  After graduation from college, they were married, and they lived their lives together into old age.
This illustrates what our relationship with God is like.  Jesus said that we must first deny ourselves.  That means that we have to change the use of our bodies and thinking of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) to be more like what God has revealed in His Word.  Do we have a different, personal opinion with that?  Do we think that is not the way that it should be?  Then we must remember that God told us “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Many times the choices that we must make to deny ourselves are lifestyle choices.  Perhaps these choices involve not spending time in places that don’t bring glory to God, or consuming things that might give our witness a bad name.  Many times, denying ourselves means that we must kill the attitudes, desires, and lusts of the old man when we are in private.
Jesus makes it pointedly clear that one who has truly been born-again and regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit must lose his life for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ.  For what do we gain if  we find favor with the world, but lose our soul in the process?


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