“And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ So they answered and said, ‘John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said, ‘The Christ of God.’ And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.’ Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.’”
Is It Necessary to Deny Our Own Righteousness?
To live out our faith is to follow the Lord denying our own human thoughts regardless of whether we did well or not before God. A genuine life of faith starts from denying our fleshly thoughts. Our Lord said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This Word of God contains the core of our life of faith. A life of faith is following the righteousness of the Lord by denying ourselves after we receive the remission of sins. Just as we received salvation by denying our human thoughts, we can follow the righteousness of the Lord wholly by denying our human thoughts after we receive salvation from sins.
Why then, do we have to deny ourselves to follow the Lord? It is because we cannot follow the Lord properly when we have the attitude of self-righteousness. In other words, we should deny ourselves and follow the Lord whether we are right or not. How are we doing by the way? Aren’t we still pursuing what we desire even after we received salvation from sins through God? Aren’t we doing things based on our own thoughts? We need to leave the stage. We need to deny such thoughts. What is the reason for that? Our thoughts are originally wrong. That is right. We are never right. No matter how wonderful plans we come up with, our plans and thoughts are never upright. It is because God’s thoughts are far better than ours and His thoughts are always more righteous and correct.
Brothers and sisters, when we received the salvation from sins, it was through the righteousness of the Lord that we received the remission of sins. However, our life of faith is supposed to be smooth from that point on only when we deny ourselves everyday. What agonizes us while we live a life of faith? How does our faith grow in such agony? It is through self-denial and obedience to the will of the Lord that our faith grows. The reason we are in agony is because we do not deny ourselves. The fact that we have to deny our own thoughts daily bothers us. Our hearts become troubled when our own thoughts collide with the will of the Lord because we think that we are right.
Do Not Think You Are Right to Some Extent
Our human thoughts are not always right. We had better consider ourselves dead. A life of faith begins by denying our own thoughts, and that is the only way to bear the real fruit of faith. Brothers and sisters, keep this in your mind: Faith or belief is to deny one’s thoughts. Our human thoughts move our hearts and put us into actions rapidly. When we think our human thoughts are right to some extent, it is hard to follow the will of the Lord. Therefore, we need to deny our own thoughts to follow the righteous thoughts of the Lord completely. Denying our own thoughts is directly living out our faith. You and I received salvation from sins through God.
Let’s say that we cannot deny our own thoughts in following God’s Word after we received salvation. This means we feel as if we were right and God’s Word was wrong. We feel that our thoughts are more reasonable, beneficial and righteous. What would be the result of that? It leads us to quit the righteousness of the Lord. Those who do so cannot maintain the proper life of faith. Therefore, only if we deny our carnal thoughts, can we follow the Lord wholly. Whoever doesn’t follow the righteousness of the Lord is not denying his/her carnal thoughts.
If we want to follow the righteousness of the Lord wholly, we should deny our own human thoughts first. Otherwise we cannot help confronting the righteousness of God without our knowledge. We end up abandoning the righteousness of the Lord in spite of ourselves. Is it a good thing for a Christian to leave the righteousness of the Lord? Is it a right thing to do not to deny our thoughts before the Word of God and the will of the Lord? No, it is not. Even among the things we thought were right many have turned out to be wrong.
Everything We Considered Good Is Not Always Right
Our Lord told us to deny ourselves. We should deny our thoughts based on His teaching. One Korean hymn has lyrics that go like this: “I now have a new life of Christ; old things have passed away; all things have become new. I will serve the Lord and follow Him.” As the lyrics of this hymn say, we need the faith of knowing and believing the righteousness of the Lord to follow the Lord. Since the Lord said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself,” we need to deny our thoughts everyday. He who can deny himself, take up his cross daily is the man who can follow the Lord genuinely. Only such a person can taste the great grace of the Lord daily.
Brothers and sisters, what we think is not always correct. Is there any correct human thought? There is none. Therefore, even if you are convinced that your thought is correct, you should admit that you are not correct. That is how you can deny yourself, as you should. There are evil thoughts and right thoughts in our minds, and what happens when we carry out all the mixtures of your thoughts? Can you guarantee the thoughts are right? It is never right. When we realize what we thought was right is not right, we can deny our thoughts completely. None of our thoughts are right. Our thoughts are always wicked as it is written, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). In other words, the decisions we make from our human thoughts are never perfect. Therefore, only when we deny ourselves before the word of God and God’s Church can we have the right thoughts in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, there is no righteousness in our flesh. Therefore, we should refuse to trust our human judgment. Even if we thought well, we need to deny our thoughts when it differs from God’s Word. What would be the reason? It is because our flesh is corrupted, and the Lord only is the real Truth and real love. Do you agree with me? In fact, it is very difficult to deny ourselves and follow the Lord daily. Nevertheless, we need not only to deny outwardly but also inwardly. “I am sorry to say this, but I am going to live this way. I want to live such a way, for I think it is right. It seems proper to live like this.” These thoughts are not right. We need to deny such thoughts. Brothers and sisters, why can’t some saved people follow wholly after the Lord? Why it is so difficult for the newly born-again believers to follow the Lord? It is because they have their own thoughts and self-righteousness.
The same is true with old believers. They have a hard time following the Lord because of they have so much self-righteousness. If they understand that their human thoughts are not right, they can easily deny themselves. The notion that human thoughts are not right is very important to us because it is not only applied to our self-conception but also is a golden rule in following the Lord God. Since everybody knows this, one cannot deny it.
But what happens when you ignore the truth and keep claiming self-righteousness? There is no way that you can live the life of faith. The Lord clearly commanded us to deny ourselves. If you refuse to deny your own righteousness and thoughts that means your life of faith has just ended. Take a look at the people who once abided in the Church but abandoned the life of faith all of sudden. They all had self-righteousness. Because they thought they were right, and pursued their own thoughts, they eventually left the will of God and walked far away from the Lord and His Church.
Faithful Christians Are Those Who Deny Themselves and Follow the Righteousness of God On Daily Basis
Only when we deny our human thoughts can we live a proper life of faith. Even what we think is right is not actually right, so we need to deny ourselves before the Lord all the time. Brothers and sisters, can you understand what I am saying? We need to understand this truth completely to live the life of faith properly. Satan, the Devil, puts self-righteousness into our hearts consistently. He makes us headstrong by doing so.
But we need to deny such thoughts. Why is that? It is because it is absolutely wrong for us to harbor our own righteousness. From their own perspectives, their thoughts are always right and beneficial to them. However, the truth is that it can be only right temporarily. They are never right in the long run. Sense of self-righteousness keeps rising in our hearts. That is why we always need to deny ourselves.
Let’s look at the Old Testament for a minute. God inflicted ten calamities upon Egypt when Pharaoh was standing against God’s will of liberating the Israelites, and one of them was the plague of hail. God struck the whole land of Egypt with the fire mingled with the hail, and the hail destroyed all the plants. But there were shoots left in the grounds. Then, God sent the plague of locusts, and the locusts ate up all the herbs on the land. But the Bible says that there were shoots that hadn’t been sprouted yet. What does it mean? It means their human thoughts still remained.
This also means that as long as we live, there is still righteousness left in our hearts. Much of our human thoughts were revealed and given up before God. But that is not the end and there still is some righteousness of our carnal thoughts left in our hearts. Therefore, we should deny the righteousness still in us. Because there remain the roots of self-righteousness inside of us, we need to deny ourselves daily. Do you follow me? Self-righteousness is in you as well as in me. We do not know how much self-righteousness we still have. That is why we need to deny ourselves everyday. Our self-righteousness is always looking for a chance to show up and grow. When the self-righteousness becomes way too big, people leave God and His Church.
God is the loving God who loves us unconditionally. He loves us forever. Servants of God in the Church love the saints as well. However, in the hearts of God’s people, there still remain the roots of self-righteousness. That’s why our self-righteousness comes up whenever possible. When it happens, we act like we are absolutely right. Even though the righteousness is not from God but from us, we start claiming on our righteousness. Then we will end up drifting away from the Lord. Brothers and sisters, I want you to keep this in your mind. No matter whether we did a good job or not, only those who deny themselves can follow wholly after the Lord. Do you follow me?
If we admit our mistakes, we can recover our spiritual faith and follow the Lord with faith. Even when we are doing many good things, we can follow the Lord genuinely if we deny our own righteousness. What is important here is to deny ourselves first before following the Lord. Only when we deny ourselves can we follow wholly after the Lord. Our faith grows by doing so. Our spiritual growth starts from denying our own human thoughts. Neither from gaining much knowledge, nor trying to follow the Lord faithfully, nor from building up much self-righteousness starts our spiritual growth; it begins from self-denial. He who denies himself is the person who is spiritually mature and whose faith is fully grown.
Then how are we doing? We know in the head that we should deny ourselves, but we cannot put it into practice. Remember this. If you don’t deny yourself, there will be no growth in your faith no matter if you are good at something else. No matter how obediently you have served the Lord so far, you will find out nothing has grown in you if you don’t deny yourself everyday. Even if your faith grew, it will become in vain because you haven’t denied your human thoughts. Those who live a great life of faith, those who are spiritually mature, know why they have to deny their carnal thoughts and actually put this conviction into practice.
You and I should know how to deny our corrupted human thoughts before the Lord. If you think you are too weak to follow the Lord, you can deny your weaknesses and hold on to the righteousness of the Lord. If you think you are too good to do so, you can also deny the thought and follow the perfect righteousness of the Lord. The life of faith is denying ourselves in all circumstances like that. Please bear in your mind that we can follow wholly after the Lord only when we deny our human thoughts.
Do you have self-righteousness in you? Do you have any right thought among your fleshly thoughts? None. There is no right thought in us, but we still think we have some righteousness. That is the reason we cannot deny our carnal thoughts completely. People cannot deny themselves when they think they are right. But what would happen if they keep living like that? They will keep building up false righteousness in them and end up losing the righteousness of the Lord. We should admit that we are not right; we should deny what is right in us, not to mention what is wrong in us. Only they can stand blamelessly before God and follow the Lord. Only those people can enjoy the blessings of God and lead a beautiful and blessed life forever.
Brothers and sisters, think about Mephibosheth in the Old Testament. He was lame in both his feet. Even though he knew his state, he denied himself and went before King David. “The King has promised me that he would show me grace.” He held onto the promise and enjoyed the blessings King David had given him. But he didn’t go with the king when they were leaving for a refuge during the war. What was his reason? He was afraid to be a burden to the king if he went along with them because of his disability. When the King David came back, he asked him, “Why didn’t you go with me?” “I didn’t go with you lest I should be hinder to you.”
But King David didn’t like what Mephibosheth said. It was because he didn’t deny his carnal thoughts. Mephibosheth thought he should perish or prosper with the king. He did not follow King David according to his thought, but on the contrary he turned out to have rebelled against the king and become the enemy of the king. As a result, all his belongings were handed over to his servant, Ziba. Why was that? It was because his servant went with the king.
Brothers and sisters, we should discard our self-righteousness. It is harder to deny what we think is right than to deny what we think is wrong. However, our righteousness is not right absolutely. Before the Lord, what we consider right is not right at all. Because of this we should discard all of our righteousness. However, Mephibosheth did not do so. He thought to himself, “The king is on his way to his refuge, and how hard would it be if I come along? When crossing a river, how would they carry me? Aren’t I really troublesome if another war breaks out? Because he thought he was right, He decided not to follow King David. As a result, he became the enemy of the king by following his own righteousness.
Brothers and sisters, we too, have this kind of righteousness in our hearts. When we start insisting on our righteousness, we are bound to deny God in no time. It prevents us from following the righteousness of God. I wish we could all live by the faith to trust the righteousness of the Lord. Brothers and sisters, spiritual growth is possible when one denies oneself consistently. Those who are willing to follow wholly after the Lord should deny themselves daily.
Are you denying yourself and following the Lord? Do you deny your self-righteousness? Our faith must grow after we receive salvation. We must deny our own righteousness to have mature faith. It doesn’t matter what you really think: If the Lord says you are wrong, you have to deny yourself; if the Lord says it is okay when you think you are wrong, it is okay.
Brothers and sisters, only when we deny our self-righteousness can we follow wholly after the Lord. We need to deny ourselves forever. Do you have any righteousness of your own? No, you don’t. You must deny your righteousness. Are you too weak? Then you should deny your weakness and follow the Lord by faith. Everybody needs to deny oneself. A proper life of faith is based on denying our own righteousness as well as our wrongness. When I read today’s Scripture passage, I realized, “I have a long way to go. I have been denying myself, but I should continue denying myself since it is the only way to follow the Lord. I must deny myself forever.” It hasn’t been easy to deny myself and follow the Lord, but I must continue denying myself and follow the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, isn’t it really a hard work? But the Lord says we should deny ourselves daily forever. So we need to deny ourselves. When we are too tired to keep on denying ourselves, we might think from the human perspective that “Shouldn’t there be a day for graduation after a long commitment to God?” But the fact is there is no day for graduation in the life of faith. So, it is very gloomy when we think about this from a human point of view. As one Korean saying goes, “There is a day when the sun will shine in the mouse holes,” We came along this far waiting for the graduation day to come, but the fact is that there is never a day of graduation.
When we were young in faith we knew that only what was wrong should be denied. But now even what is good and right should be denied as well. Since we have to give up what we think is good or what we really want, it is getting more and more difficult to do so. However, it is God’s command and therefore it is the never-changing truth and the answer key. You should realize that this is correct. You should accept this truth in your heart by denying yourself and following the Lord daily.
A Life of Faith Is Real
It is actually hard to deny one’s own thoughts. But God is the God of truth. What God says will be done exactly as He said. After I received the remission of sins by believing the gospel of the water and the Spirit, I followed the Lord based on God’s Word, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). While I was following the Lord, I went through all kinds of hardships. I was separated from people when I separated myself from the old church I had attended; I was persecuted, and I lost everything in the world. But the Lord said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Mathew 19:29). When I first heard this word, I thought, “Even though I lose my children or parents or wife in this world, I would receive a hundred times in the other world. This is real non-sense”; nevertheless it was only my thought. I had to follow the Lord even if that had happened to me just because it is God’s command, and it is the Lord Himself that is only righteous.
So I followed the Lord with such a mind-set as “If I have to die, I die; if I have to perish, I perish.” However, I still had things to deny. I had to deny myself everyday. I didn’t say anything, but I felt so bored, upset and suffocated as if I were caught in a net. I felt like ripping everything around me and going away. But when I denied myself and confessed, “Only God is right. The Lord is righteous,” God really worked in me.
Brothers and sisters, when we deny ourselves, we can tear apart the net that is binding us. When we deny ourselves completely, we can get out of the net of thoughts that binds us. When you deny yourself genuinely, you can follow the Lord freely as a bird flying in the sky. Do you agree with me or not? We humans tend to lock ourselves up. Therefore, if you want to get away from yourself, you should deny yourself first.
Some saints among us still have their own thoughts and righteousness. They don’t listen when they were directly warned, “If you follow your thoughts like that, you will surely end up leaving the Lord.” And as a result, they do leave the Lord. You are in the same situation. If you do something out of your own thoughts, the result is your separation from the Lord. Therefore, I urge you to deny whatever thoughts are in you. It is right to deny yourself. The Lord told us to do so because we are not right. Do you believe this?
Then, how can you deny yourselves by faith? First of all, you should admit your wickedness and weakness with your lips. Confessing with your mouth is very important. When you received salvation, it was through your confession of faith as it is written, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Whatever you confess with your lips, it becomes yours.
Brothers and sisters, how many things are actually binding us? We need to deny all of them. It is because we are not right. We need to know this truth and put this knowledge into practice. Do you agree with me? You were saved in a moment, but denying oneself is actually never-ending. It is tough.
But when we know we are not right, it becomes easy to deny ourselves. Once we know we are wrong, it is not that difficult to deny ourselves. Then do we have any righteousness? No, we don’t. Do you have anything wise, precious, pure, or pleasant to the eyes and useful? When there is self-righteousness in you, you are challenging God and you will fall prey to Satan. Adam and Eve had their own righteousness after eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and became evicted from the Garden of Eden along with the Serpent.
The same is true to today. Satan the Devil tempts us to stand against God by invoking our own righteousness. Even right at this moment in time, Satan is encouraging the righteousness in you and me. Brothers and sisters, are you suffering from Satan the Devil even now?
Do you have much self-righteousness? That is right. We still have self-righteousness hidden in our hearts. That is why we should realize as soon as possible that we are not right. That way we can deny ourselves. Please remember this. Only if you realize you are not right, can you then deny yourself. When you deny yourself in such a way, you will open up your wings to fly. You will be able to live freely in the glory of God doing God’s work flying around the broad world like the ocean and the sky. You will be blessed with precious happiness. It is possible through the Lord only because you got out of yourself.
Brothers and sisters, I am telling you once again. The righteousness we have deep inside of our thoughts is never right. No matter how good your thoughts seem to be, they are not right. Do you understand? We must always keep this in our minds.
We became one in Christ and became children of God. Now we are His. When we deny our righteousness and follow the Lord, acknowledging our wrongs and shortcomings, the Lord will glorify us and make us more beautiful. Do you believe this? Let’s praise the Lord. Halleluiah!