Why we do not see the Bible alike #5
The objective of this article is to analyze human weaknesses and be aware of the dangers that exist. The deepest roots are found in the ignorance of God’s word (Romans 10:2). Deceit, as we previously discussed, is a universal human weakness. It flourishes where there is ignorance. It becomes the agent by which ignorance binds us and holds us to our old errors. Conceit is largely responsible for the reluctance by many to accept and follow Christ’s teachings. We must understand how conceit is closely inter-linked with our actions.
Human conceit and actions are tightly linked together. As the apostle Paul makes it clear, we are not justified because we know nothing against ourselves (1 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 10:18; 12:9-10). It is only when we recognize our weaknesses and recognize our dependence on God that we are strong. The converse is also true. Jesus does not use the word “conceit”, but His statements show that “self” is the only obstacle to obedience.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
In Romans 9:33, Paul records “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame”. But what causes people to “stumble” over Jesus, who is obviously the stumbling stone Paul refers to? I suggest the real problem is our attitude toward self. Examine Jesus’ requirement of discipleship. He say, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. This is addressed to all – if anyone.
So what did Jesus mean by the phrase deny himself? The phrase is always followed by the thing to be denied. Examples: the boy denied himself an education to support his family; a mother denied herself comforts at home so she could send her children to college. But this is not the way Jesus used the expression. Examine the context of the statement. He had taught the disciples and led them to believe He was the Messiah. Peter’s confession that You are the Christ confirms this (Matthew 16:16). He told them He would go to Jerusalem, suffer many things at the hands of the Jewish leaders, be killed, and raised on the third day, but Peter rebuked Him. Notice the language Jesus used in His response to Peter:
Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
He follows this immediately with the statement about denying self. Jesus repeatedly said He had not come to do His own will, but the will of the Father. His teachings were not His own, but the Father’s (John 5:30; 6:38). Thus He reserved to Himself no right of decision. His ideas, feelings, or wishes were never to be the controlling factor in His behavior. This is clearly shown by His statement in the garden the night before His death.
O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.
So what about the application to us? If we are to be His disciple, we must likewise deny self, which involves giving up our own ideas, wishes, feelings, and turn from our own wisdom. Consider some other translations of the term deny himself. “If anyone is desiring to come after me, let him forget self and lose sight of his own interests” (The New Testament: An Expanded Translation by Kenneth S. Wuest). “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways” (New Living Translation). “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget himself,” (Today’s English Version).
Look at the subject from another angle. Jesus taught His disciples and they passed His teachings on to us. Are Jesus’ teachings that come through them in agreement with the idea of self-denial? James tells us to put away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness (James 1:21). Where does this come from? It comes from man following his own ideas, wishes, and lust. Isn’t James telling them to deny self? Peter gives a similar admonition:
1 Peter 2:1-2
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.
The things we are to put away are the result of man’s efforts to direct his own steps.
Paul says we are to put off the old man that is corrupt and put on the new man that is created according to God (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). He appeals to the Corinthians to abstain from fornication and states their relationship with God, “You are not your own, for we were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The right of ownership carries the right of possession. When we obeyed the gospel, we accepted the purchase price and entered into a relationship which requires us to surrender the right of directing our own steps. Jesus points out the absurdity of such inconsistency when we do not deny self and go our own way.
But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?
Consider a simple example. Mrs. Jones is a guest at a dinner where a delicious pie is served. She asks for the recipe. Later she makes the pie for her guests, but she had made many pies so she makes changes. The pie turns out fine, but she did not make the pie in the recipe because she thought she knew better. A novice cook would have put complete trust in the recipe. This illustration demonstrates the conceit that is in all of us to one extent or another. Until we recognize our own ignorance on a subject, we are not willing to accept the teaching of another. God recognized conceit as a source of the greatest antagonism against His wisdom and gave teaching through His Son that we should deny self if we are to be His disciple.
The next, and final article in this series, will talk about one of man’s most dangerous practices that contributes to ignorance, deception, and conceit. It is the practice of comparing ourselves to others.