|HEN JESUS SAID to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24-25|
In Matthew 16; 24-25, Jesus is telling his disciples what they must do to follow him. What is interesting about this statement is that his disciples have been following him for some time. They saw Jesus heal the sick, bring sight to the blind and feed the multitudes. When Jesus initially called each of the disciples the bible says they immediately got up and followed him.
So what was it that prompted Jesus to tell his disciples now at this point and time what they must do to follow Him? The answer lies in the events that took place prior to this statement. At the middle of Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples, "Who did they say He is? Simon Peter answered Him and said that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus blessed Simon Peter and from that moment forward Jesus called him Peter and told Peter that flesh and blood could not have revealed that to him but His Father in Heaven.
In the very next passage Jesus begins to share with them about his suffering to come and those that will seek to kill him and also about His resurrection. He was preparing them ahead of time for what was about to happen to Him. In Matthew 16:22 Peter takes Jesus aside after hearing this and rebukes him. Jesus knew what was in his heart and saw that he was speaking and acting in his flesh and tells Peter, "Get behind Me Satan!"
This story is a great example for many of us, myself included; who in one moment can be walking in the spirit and the next moment we can be walking in the flesh. It can happen so fast and usually does; like an on and off switch. When the light is turned on the whole room is full of light and then in an instant when the light switch is turned off the room can be completely dark.
For those of us who call ourselves, "Born Again Christians", we have two natures living inside of us. Our old human Flesh nature we were born with and our new Spirit nature we receive when we ask Jesus to come and live in our hearts by faith.
"For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 - NKJV
The bible is clear that these two natures are enmity with each other. They are contrary to one another and complete opposite in their purpose and function. The flesh nature is self seeking, corrupt and born sinful from the time of Adam. Our new nature comes through the Holy Spirit which is also called the helper and through the spirit of truth it is born of heaven. The word, "Born Again" actually means born from above. Therefore, the spiritual new nature is pure, holy, righteous, and seeks only to glorify God.
Jesus, being aware of their flesh nature, was teaching them that in order to follow Christ they needed to deny themselves and pick up their crosses and follow Him. The word deny in the Hebrew is aparneomai (ap-ar-neh'-om-ahee); which means to deny utterly, disown or abstain. It is the same exact word that is used when Jesus tells Peter he will deny Jesus three times. In Matthew 26: 72 and 74 Peter says these very words, "I do not know the man".
Let's ponder this for a moment. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples instructing them to deny self, He was instructing them to disown, deny utterly and literally say in their hearts to self, "I do not know the man". The man or self I am referring to is the old man/flesh nature. Paul explains why in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17,
"Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 -NKJV
Filoiann Wiedenhoff is a Pastor’s Wife, Work at Home Mom, Woman’s Biblical Counselor, Bible Teacher and Writer. You can subscribe to her monthly newsletter and visit her website.
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