Matthew 16:24 (GW)
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want, pick up their crosses, and follow me.”
The translation I grew up said Matthew 16:24 this way “...deny yourself.” The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek word used here means to “deny, disown, renounce or disregard.” I like how the God’s Word translation has translated this as “…say no to the things they want.” What is denying oneself except to say no to things you want? That is pretty easy to understand. Easy to understand, but hard to live out.
We live in a consumer-driven culture. Commercials and other advertising ae all geared to feed our selfish natures. We are told that we can have it all; we deserve a break today; why wait? We live a world of fast food, microwaves, on demand TV programming and high speed internet. If we want something, it is readily available. The problem with these things is that they do not satisfy. They only seem to feed our appetite for more.
The Jesus way is different. Following Jesus means saying no to things we want. Why? Because those things do not last. When we say no to those things that may seem good, we in fact are saying yes to the best that Jesus has to offer. What Jesus offers is always better than any good we can find on our own.
When we say no to the things we want and follow Jesus, we are saying yes to the things Jesus wants. What does Jesus want? 1 Timothy 2:4 (GW) 4 He wants all people to be saved and to learn the truth. Jesus’ desire is that all people would be saved. Isn’t that why He came into the world, so that He could save people? If that is the desire of Jesus, shouldn’t that also be the desire of us, too? Shouldn’t we be about His business, the business of seeking and saving the lost?
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Museum. One of the things that impressed me was Billy Graham’s dedication to spreading the Gospel. He didn’t want people to see him, but he always pointed people toward Jesus. Billy Graham’s life was not always easy. He had his share of troubles, heartaches, and problems. But he said no to the things he wanted and followed Jesus. That is why he was able to do great things, not because he was great, but because the God he followed is great!
At the end of the tour I found myself in a bookstore. I love books! As I was looking over various titles, I came across a volume by Andrew Murray titled Collected Works on Prayer. This volume has seven of Andrew Murray’s books on prayer. One of my personal goals for this year is to learn more about prayer. So, I bought the book. I highly recommend Andrew Murray for your devotional reading. The first book in this volume is Abide in Christ. I read these words in Chapter 24 regarding God’s will:
“It is only as long as salvation is to the sinner nothing but a personal safety, that he can be careless or afraid of doing God’s will. No sooner is it to him what Scripture and the Holy Spirit reveal it to be – the restoration to communion with God and conformity to Him – than he feels that there is no law more natural or more beautiful than this: keeping Christ’s commandments the way to abide in Christ’s love.”
Saying no to the things we want is not a burden but rather a joy. I saw this as I toured the Billy Graham Museum. I comprehend this as I read Andrew Murray. May we as God’s people learn this as we daily live out our lives as true disciples of Jesus!
Andrew Murray, Andrew Murray Collected Works on Prayer, (New Kensington PA: Whitaker House 2013) 156-157