And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Mark 8:34 (KJV)
Deny – Once, a few years back, during a break in the church service, a minister walked up to me with tears in his eyes and quoted this verse to me. I immediately teared up myself and felt convicted to the core. These were beautiful words that expressed a purely wonderful thing. I had to deny myself. But when I contemplated these words, while they were inspiring, how was I supposed to do it – how was I supposed to deny myself?
What did this mean, and where would I find the answer? Do I just examine my own life and put away those things that aren’t advancing my walk with God? Do I cut out those activities that aren’t giving glory to the Creator? What exactly does it mean to deny oneself? Maybe there was an answer somewhere that had already been given?
So I set out to seek the examples given to us in YHWH’s Word. The Apostles and Yeshua himself always referred back to Torah in the New Testament, so maybe I should as well. Reading through I found several examples of God’s commandments instructing the act of denying oneself. In Leviticus 19:9, YHWH teaches that if you’re a farmer, you are to deny yourself by not reaping the corners of your field or the gleanings of your harvest. This is for the poor. If you’re a money lender, according to Exodus 22:25, you’re not to charge interest upon those who are poorer than you either. This is another form of denying oneself. Another example is found in Leviticus 11 – the dietary laws. Certainly it’s much more pleasurable to eat what I want, when I want, but that wouldn’t be denying my gluttonous ways. GMO products look so good, especially those watermelons without seeds! I hear bacon is wonderful too. But these are forbidden, and I must deny myself.
There are further examples in His Word on how to exactly deny oneself. His Torah is filled with tangible ways that are clear and understandable wherein we can accomplish this. It doesn’t have to be left up to our own interpretations, but rather can be applied literally by His own commandments. But of course we shouldn’t just stop there. Aparneomai (deny) is about total renunciation. While the Torah can lead us in the right direction, we can grow further and apply aparneomai to all facets of our lives.
Paul writes to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” This is what it’s about. I need somewhere to begin, to start this journey, and Torah provides that very real and tangible beginning. My growth leads me to Yeshua and He refines me and opens the Torah to direct my path. Someday, with Him, we can deny ourselves (and die to ourselves) because we realize that living is all about Yeshua and His example.
Have you denied yourself recently? Are you at a loss as to how it’s done? Open the Torah and YHWH will lead you to those areas that pertain to your life. And through that His Word will provide clear and tangible ways in which this can be done. All you have to do is read and obey.