Self-Denial; by Pastor Dr. Robert Bannister

(Luk 9:23) 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.

    On the ‘ribbon of highway’ that stretches ‘from California to the New York island’ the American Main Street—the mass of people seem completely self-absorbed. One hundred and fifty years ago Alexis de Tocqueville visited America from France and wrote: ‘Each citizen is habitually engaged in the contemplation of a very puny object, namely himself.’ In a century and a half things have not improved. For all the diverse and attractive, buzzing and mysterious reality that is everywhere evident, no one and no thing interrupt people more than momentarily from obsessive preoccupation with themselves. America is in conspicuous need of unselfing. The Cross and Christianity by Bob Diffinbaugh

This simple verse from the Gospels is familiar to many of us-yet why is it so difficult to integrate into our lives? I think the answer lies deep within our free will as individuals.

    Self denial is not to deny one’s personality, to deny things as an ascetic or to withdraw from the world. It is instead the turning away from the idolatry of self centeredness and every attempt to orient one’s life by the dictates of self interest.

Let's look at some of the words in this important verse in their original Greek language:
Middle voice of a primary verb (used only in the present and imperfect tenses, the others being supplied by a kindred [middle voice] word, ἐλεύθομαι eleuthomai or ἔλθω elthō; which do not otherwise occur); to come or go (in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively): - accompany, appear, bring, come enter, fall out, go, grow, X light, X next, pass, resort, be set.

From the same as G3693 with enclitic of direction; to the back, that is, aback (as adverb or preposition of time or place; or as noun): - after, back (-ward), (+ get) behind, + follow.

Perhaps from G1 (as a negative particle) and the middle of G4483; to contradict, that is, disavow, reject, abnegate: - deny, refuse.

From the base of G2476; a stake or post (as set upright), that is, (specifically) a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively exposure to death, that is, self denial; by implication the atonement of Christ: - cross.

From G1 (as a particle of union) and κέλευθος keleuthos (a road); properly to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany (specifically as a disciple): - follow, reach.

I looked up the word cross in the Webster's Dictionary. I remember as a child my grandmother stating she was “cross”. I am sure I gave her plenty of reasons to be “cross”.
Any thing that thwarts, obstructs, or perplexes; hindrance; vexation; misfortune; opposition; trial of patience.

There are many sermons with subject matter of “taking up your cross”, and I shall avoid yet another such sermon. Rather, this was a verse the Lord put upon my heart today, and I wanted to share this with you.

    To take up the cross meant to carry one's own cross to the place of crucifixion. Many Galileans had been killed that way by the Romans—and Jesus would face it as well. With this word picture, Christ presented a clear and challenging description of the Christian life. Being his disciple means putting aside selfish desires, shouldering one's "cross" every day, and following him. It is simple and yet so demanding. For the original Twelve, this meant literal suffering and death. For believers today, it means understanding that we belong to him and that we live to serve his purposes. Consider this: Do you think of your relationship with God primarily in terms of what's in it for you (which is considerable) or in terms of what you can do for him? Are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow him? Anything less is not discipleship; it is merely superficial lip service. The Life Application Study Bible

There are a number of related verses to Luke 9:23. Here are a few:
(Luk 14:27) "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

(Mat 10:38) "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

(Mat 16:24) 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.

(Joh 12:26) "If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
This tidbit of wisdom really blessed me today:

    The word “deny” is the same word used of Peter’s denials of Jesus. It means to repudiate, renounce, or disown. Jesus wasn’t talking about denying yourself some little pleasure, like giving up chocolate for Lent. He was talking about a complete way of life involving a renunciation of living for your own selfish interests and an embracing of living for the sake of Christ and the gospel. The verb tenses of the three commands in 9:23 indicate that denying self and taking up one’s cross are basic decisions that result in a life of continual following of Jesus. Self-denial means “turning away from the idolatry of self-centeredness and every attempt to orient one’s life by the dictates of self-interest” (John Grassmick, The Bible Knowledge Commentary [Victor Books], 2:141). It means to give up the right to control your life and to give that right to Jesus Christ. Steven J. Cole

In conclusion today let's look at this quote:

    What does it mean to "take up the cross daily"? This may be a reference to the struggle against the challenges and temptations of personal sins. So while one may be free of the penalty of sin (initial salvation), the Christian life is discovering God’s holy standard, striving towards making it our own and realizing that we cannot do it by our own efforts.

May God pour out His blessings upon you today (as we deny self and take up our cross)!