Self-denial & Joy

By: Jeremy Khoo

Right now I’m preparing for the YF program for this coming Saturday, and I just want to share how the events of the past few days have just spoke to me so clearly on the lesson that God wants me to learn.

This month’s YF programs are centred around Luke 9:23 – And he said to them all, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” As Elder Reggie said on Saturday, for those of you who were not there, following Jesus can be divided into three parts: denying oneself, taking up our cross DAILY, and following Jesus.  The following is from a website ( I chanced upon, thought it was quite well written.

Deny self

Denying self requires us to give up anything that we would want or seek that would hinder our doing the will of God. This does not mean that, if we want something, it is necessarily wrong. It means we must take our wants and desires down from the throne and place Jesus and His will as the governing power in our lives.

There is room in each life for only one master (Matt. 6:19-24). If God is to rule in our lives, then our will must be made subservient to His. We must be willing to give up anything in life in order to please God. Rom. 12:1,2; Matt. 6:33; Luke 14:25-33; 2 Cor. 5:14,15.

Take up your cross and follow Jesus

Many think this means bearing burdens and suffering hardships for the Lord. Surely such hardships will at times be required, but there is a fuller meaning if we consider the context.

(1) What is a cross for? It was not just a burden to be borne. Far more than that, it was an instrument of death and total sacrifice. (2) Jesus said take up our cross and follow Him. He bore a cross and we must bear our cross and follow Him. But where was He going with His cross? He had just said He was going to die. (3) In the next verse Jesus said we must give our lives for Him. (4) Then He asked what good our lives would be to us, if we are unacceptable at the judgment.

Hence, “taking up your cross” refers to giving your whole life to God, as Jesus was about to give His life for us. This involves bearing burdens, but it is deeper than that. It is a total dedication of life. Our whole life is given to His service in anything He says. This will lead us to willingly deny self. Following Him then requires us to live as He lived His life (I Pet. 2:21; Matt. 10:34,35; I Cor. 11:1).

Luke adds “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23). There is a sense in which Christians must give their lives to God every day. This is not necessarily a physical death as Jesus died for us (though such might be required), but a daily total sacrifice of self to do the will of Jesus. Whatever He wants with my life is what must be done with it. What I want no longer matters, but I give myself for Him, just as He gave Himself for us despite the fact His human nature did not want to have to do it. Cf. Rom. 12:1,2; Gal. 2:20; I John 3:16-18; Matt. 6:19-33; Gal. 5:24; Rom. 6:6-23; 2 Tim. 2:11; 2 Cor. 4:11; Ecc. 12:13.

The determination to give our lives to God’s service is called “repentance.” In repenting we determine to turn away from our own will and live our lives to please God. We cannot be saved without this, and that is why repentance is so important in salvation. It also explains why so many people are not truly Jesus’ disciples (whether or not they may claim to be His disciples): because they are not willing to make this total sacrifice.

Lose your life for Jesus

The next verse then helps us understand Jesus’ point and strengthens the application. If a person holds his life so dear to himself that he wants to use it to please himself, do his own will, and accomplish his own purposes, rather than denying self and serving God, that person will in the end lose his life eternally. But anyone who loses his life for Jesus’ sake – gives it in service and sacrifice to God by denying himself, as described above – such a man will save his life by gaining eternal life.

There can be no greater or clearer teaching anywhere of the meaning of being a disciple. This is how our Master lived, so this is how His disciples must live. We must live lives of complete and total submission to the will of God.

–          (c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2/5/2005,

This is all well and good, but how do we reconcile this with being filled with the joy of the Lord? Our joy should not come from our own selfish desires, or just based on how we are feeling. Contrary to that song by one-hit-wonders, The Darkness, love is, in fact, not a feeling. Neither is joy! When we purposefully leave our past lives behind us, and embrace our new ones in Christ, there is joy to be found, even though we may face persecution. We see the example of how Paul and Silas still sang praises to God even after being flogged and jailed (Acts  16:16-40). True joy comes not from inside, but from God. So, how do we get this joy? I leave you now with Pastor Mark Driscoll’s ten simple points on how we can find joy in the Holy Spirit:

  1. If our joy is low, it may be because our Bible intake is low
  2. Joy goes up when I repent of the sin He has convicted me of
  3. I serve with the gifts God has given me
  4. I find joy when I forgive those who sin against me
  5. Joy in the Holy Spirit increases when I enjoy what I have and give generously
  6. I pay attention to my health (hurhur)
  7. I rejoice in the joy of others
  8. I remind myself that joy is an emotion that God gives
  9. When I respond physically, trusting my emotions will catch up
    1. Even if we don’t feel like doing something (e.g. picking up the bible, writing a blog post =p), we just do it first, and more often than not we find joy in doing it
  10. I plan fun, and capture sacred moments as they come

May we be able to find joy in whatever God has called us to do =)

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