In his book, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” Dr. Brand said it more clearly than I could, “Our culture exalts self-fulfillment, self-discovery, and autonomy. But according to Christ, it is only in losing my life that I will find it. Only by committing myself as a ‘living sacrifice’ to the larger Body through loyalty to Him will I find my true reason for being. We are called to self-denial, not for its own sake, but for a compensation we can obtain no other way.”
Dr. Brand is referring to Jesus’ statement, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23). As the doctor says, this requirement sounds more like a “warning than a sales pitch.” However, it’s really neither. It’s a call for LOYALTY to Jesus above all others.
I would only point out that Jesus never demanded self-denial of His followers. His demand required something much more difficult, denial of self. I’m sure it was only a matter of semantics for Dr. Brand, but there is a significant difference between the two.
SELF-DENIAL. Here, I’m still the boss. I decide what I will give up. I decide what pleasures I will forego.
DENIAL OF SELF. Here, I give up the right to be my own self-determining boss. I am placing my wants and wishes before another and letting Him determine what I am to do. In this case, I have chosen the Lord Jesus to be my Boss.
Denial of oneself calls for humility before God. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3–4). I would say this describes our partners in India and Rwanda.
Each of them could have done something much more comfortable and profitable with their lives. Instead, they denied themselves and allowed Jesus to set their course. With the writer of Hebrews, they can say, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1–2)