John 12:24-25— “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
JESUS AS OUR EXAMPLE
As one studies the life and teachings of Christ, the theme of self-denial appears again and again. Jesus said that a lifestyle of self-denial was one that must be embraced if a person truly wanted to be His disciple.
The kenosis of Christ is recorded in Philippians 2:5-8, wherein Jesus denied all rights to self and, operating as a man in total obedience to His Father’s designs and revealed will, became obedient unto Calvary. In the garden of Gethsemane, He asked the Father if there was any other way to carry out the redemption plan for man. Then, fully knowing the mind of the Father, He freely surrendered His will to the will of the Father and entered into the greatest act of self-denial ever recorded. In this, Jesus became the greatest example of what it means to die to self.
THE LEGITIMATE SELF
Every human being is a legitimate self. We never lose the right of being a free moral agent. Self is the part of man where choices, both physical and moral, are made. Man is always free to decide what he will do, say, or believe. So then it is correct to say that the moral center of man resides in the legitimate self. Each person has both the right and the responsibility to choose for himself what he will depend upon, what he will do, how he will act, what he will say, and what he will believe.
The decisions made by the legitimate self are influenced greatly by those who have access to our hearts and minds. Every person can be influenced either positively or negatively, toward right or toward wrong.
Positive voices available to the Christian are:
1. The Word of God properly interpreted.
2. The influence of the Holy Spirit.
3. The right teachings a person hears and embraces.
4. The company of faithful believers he surrounds himself with.
Negative voices that influence a Christian in a wrong way are:
1. Wrong interpretation of God’s Word.
2. Quenching or grieving of the Holy Spirit.
3. Wrong teaching.
4. The bad company he surrounds himself with.
5. The world.
6. The flesh.
7. The Devil or powers of darkness.
In addition, man, who is self-centered as a result of the fall, must deal with thoughts prevalent in the corruption of his human nature. Such influences include self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, positioning of self, promotion of self, prosperity of self, and the pleasing of self.
We alone are responsible to sort through the influences around us, place it all onto the scales of moral code, and determine to follow the way that is biblically right.
THE WAY OF SELF-DENIAL
True self-denial can only be accomplished by having self “hidden” in Christ. This can only be carried out by placing one’s faith securely and exclusively in the finished work of Christ. Then and only then, will the grace of God that supernaturally empowers us to live the crucified life start to flow. Our will is involved, but only in the matter of choosing how to die to self. If we choose the way of faith in Christ’s Cross, then grace will flow and help us to allow our will to be swallowed up in the will of our Master.
If we attempt to live the lifestyle of self-denial by counting on the power source of our own will, then we will fail miserably. One cannot count on himself and deny himself at the same time! So, our Cross—the place where we are figuratively put to death—can only be experienced by daily choosing to renew our faith in Christ and Him crucified.
THE RESULT OF SELF DENIAL
Jesus proclaimed that if a corn of wheat fell into the ground and died, it would bring forth much fruit. Even so, if the Christian will die to self, then the Holy Spirit will provide exponential power.
Not only will the spiritual growth of the believer be affected by this lifestyle of self-denial, but also the work that God has designed for that believer will also bring forth much fruit. The born-again experience brings the power of the Holy Spirit to the Christian that effects regeneration—the power that overcomes the sin nature (thus, acts of sin)—and begins the process of progressive sanctification. The baptism with the Holy Spirit produces power for service.
Both events, salvation first, and then the second subsequent work of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, are all carried out by one and the same Spirit. A life of self-denial—choosing Christ and the Cross as our consistent object of faith—gives the legal right to the Holy Spirit to work both in us and through us. Therefore, sanctification, as well as power to accomplish our ministries, depend upon and demand a lifestyle of self-denial or faith in Christ and the Cross.
Jesus said that if a man would lose his life he would keep it unto life eternal. Two different Greek words are used for our one English word, life. The first word regarding the life we must lose is psuche and indicates the feelings and emotions of man. It represents what we want, what we think is best, or what we desire. The second word for life is zoe. It represents the life that only God can give, a God kind of life. So, if the believer will deny himself and lose his design and desire, then he will gain the benefit that can only come through the person of the Holy Spirit. That is abundant life, or a God kind of life. So deny yourself, take up your Cross, and begin to follow Jesus in the abundance that only a God kind of life can possess.