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NOTES ON DISCIPLESHIP
by Dr. Fred Wittman
THE CONDITIONS OF DISCIPLESHIP
The Disciplined Life 1 (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-33)
“And He was repeatedly saying to the face of all, If (and it is true) anyone determinedly wills to come after Me, he is to utterly deny himself! And he is to carry off his cross daily! And he is to continually follow Me! For who ever determinedly will to save his natural life shall lose [destroy or perish] it; but who ever lose [destroy or perish] his natural life for My cause, this one shall save it. For what is a human being profited by gaining the whole world, but losing [destroying or perishing] or suffering loss of himself?” (Lk. 9:23-25 APT).
Introduction: The Lord Jesus Christ set forth rigid conditions for a person to be a disciple of His. In an agriculture and farming economy it is not as difficult to get people to comply as in an advanced technology economy which has swept most of the world today. Nevertheless Jesus maintained an expectation of rigid conditions for His disciples throughout the ages as reflected throughout The New Testament. We noted in the introductory message to the Life that counts that The Bible equates the term disciples with Christians (Acts 11:26), a term that lost its significant meaning in the twentieth century (see What Is A Christian? on our website, click here). But just what does the Disciplined Life, the life that counts, entail? Three conditions of discipleship: Denial of Self, Reckoning Self to be Dead, and Determined Steadfast Following.
I. In Denial of Self
A. What is ‘Self-denial’?
To answer that question, it is necessary to examine the key verse that deals with self denial, explain the meaning of denial, and then see how Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ.
The key verse to learning the meaning of self-denial is Luke 9:23. In Luke 9 the Lord Jesus Christ had just told His disciples that He must suffer many things and be rejected and be slain, and be raised the third day . “Then He was repeatedly saying to[the face of] all. If (and it is true) anyone determinedly wills to come after [behind] Me, he is to deny himself utterly . . . ’’(Lk. 9:23 APT).
1. The Meaning of ‘self-denial’
To deny means ‘to contradict, to refuse to grant or admit, to declare untrue, to restrain oneself from gratification of desires, to disown, disclaim, abnegate, or renounce.’ Jesus equated self-denial with taking up the cross, which action indicates willingness and readiness to die. Before one takes up the cross it is absolutely necessary to deny self. Jesus contrasted denial with confession. He said that it is either confess or deny. Jesus equated lack of confessing Him to denial.
“Therefore everyone whoever shall Confess [say the same thing as] |to be| in Me before the face of the humans, I Myself also shall confess [say the same thing as] |to be| in him before the face of My /Father Who |is| in 0Heavens. But whoever ever deny[renounce] Me before the face of the humans, I Myself also shall deny[renounce] him before the face of My /Father Who |is| in 0Heavens” (Mt. 10:32, 33 APT).
So denying self is not confession. Denial is the opposite action to confessing Christ. To acknowledge Christ is to openly declare that He is your Savior and Lord. Failure to confess or acknowledge Christ is to deny Him. To deny self, therefore, is to disclaim or to reject self, to disown self. To deny is to disavow, to abnegate, to fail to confess, to fail or to refuse to recognize, to abstain. Thus to deny self is to renounce utterly and repudiate self. When we stand before God to be judged, if we have denied The Lord Jesus Christ, He will not lay claim to us. He will disown us. He will not acknowledge us, but will say, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me (Lk. 13:25-27.
Therefore self-denial is refusal: to grant ‘self’ to have control of your own life and refusal of the freedom to indulge in worldly pleasures; to restrain yourself from gratification of your lusts and desires and control over your life; and to deny utterly the old self who had his way for so long in your life before you committed your life to Christ. So often we attribute self-denial to abstaining in matters of things we desire, but really in the spiritual sense it refers to the matter of control of self.
B. How to deny self. - Deny Identification
The way Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ in the house of the high priest is a good example of denial. We can deny self in the same ways that Peter denied the Lord. How did he deny Him? A careful examination of Peter's denial of Christ will reveal seven areas in which denial can take place (Mt. 26:57,69-75; Lk. 22:54-62).
(1) In Recognition (Lk. 22:56,57) - self recognition, ego, pride.
Peter had followed the Lord after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsaymahnáy. John had taken him into the high priest's house. In the midst of the courtyard, Peter was sitting down by a fire warming himself with the servants of the High Priest.
“But when a certain, young, female bondslave beheld him sitting toward[the face of] the light[of the fire], and after staring at him, she said, This one also was together with Him. . . .But he denied Him, saying, O woman, I am not aware of Him” (Lk. 22:56,57 APT).
He denied to be recognized as the Lord’s disciple, as one who belonged to the Lord. He denied recognition. Recognition has to do with our ego, our pride. How quickly he failed and fulfilled the Lord's prediction. The ego, the old flesh wants to be recognized for: accomplishments, work we do for the Lord, service, ministry, and positions held. We must deny the recognition we naturally and anxiously desire.
(2) In Relationship (Lk. 22:58) - emotions, selfish relationships.
“And after a short |time|, another+ [different kind] beheld him and he was repeatedly expressing, You yourself also are continually of [source] them. But /Peter said, O human, I am continually not” (Luke 22:58).
What is he denying now? He is denying relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom he boasted that he would never deny. Relationship has to do with our emotions. We must deny the selfish relationships that we have--affectionate relationships that will hinder our walk with the Lord and our testimony. Our selfish emotional relationships must be denied if we are to ‘deny self.’
We must deny the selfish, affectionate relationships that will hinder our walk with the Lord and our testimony.
(3) In Rulership (Lk. 22:59). Will, deny the ruling of self will.
“And after about one hour intervened, another+ [same kind] certain one kept insisting, saying, On the basis of truth this one also was [in company]with Him. For he also is a Galilean” (Luke 22:59).
What is he denying now? Peter is denying rulership. “Your Galilean speech betrays you.” “I don't know this man of whom you speak.” Now, the will of Peter is exercised. Peter denied the will of Christ over him. He denied Christ’s rulership or the control over his life. We need to deny self-will -- the ‘self’ ruling our lives instead of Christ. Not what I want but what Thou dost want. Not what I want but what God wants (Lk. 22:42). Not I, But Christ (Gal. 2:20).
“Father, if (and it is true) You$ desirously will, bear this /cup from alongside away from Me! Nevertheless, not My /determined will, but[on the contrary] the one is to come to pass!” (Lk. 22:42 APT)
“I stand crucified together with Christ, but I absolutely live. No longer myself, but Christ absolutely lives in me. In fact what I now absolutely live in 0 flesh, I absolutely live by means of faith^, |namely | the^ one of The Son of The God, Who loved me and delivered Himself over in my behalf”(Gal. 2:20 APT).
(4) In Respect (Mt. 26:74) - esteem, self-respect.
“At that time he began to utter a curse against himself and to deny with an oath, ‘I am not aware of The Human.’ And immediately a rooster crowed” (Mt. 26:74 APT).
Curse and swear by an oath? Many criticize Peter for swearing. They are thinking of cursing and swearing as profanity. But Peter swore in a different way, by an oath saying, “I do not know him!” He was cursing and vehemently declaring that he did not know Christ or be stricken. It is not foul language! But rather a way of saying assuredly that his claim is true, ‘so help me God.’ By doing this, he denied the esteem and respect that Christ should have. In order to show the highest respect and esteem for our lovely and loving Lord, Jesus Christ, we need to deny self-respect.
(5) In Reproach (Mt. 26:75) - feelings of: self censure, shame, disgrace.
“And /Peter was reminded of the declaration of /Jesus standing spoken to him, ‘Sooner than a rooster crows, you$ shall utterly deny Me three times.’ And he exited without [off away from] and loudly wept bitterly” (Mt. 26:75 APT).
Christ’s look was a look of censure. It brought shame. His conscience smote him and he wept bitterly. Peter's denial brought reproach upon himself and grief to the Lord Jesus. To reproach is to accuse of faults, rebuke, shame, or disgrace. This has to do with the conscience. Reproach brings censure, shame, and disgrace. We naturally desire to escape reproach. Self- reproach is brought on by failure to identify with The Lord Jesus Christ before the world. If we do not deny self-reproach in our stand for Christ, the conscience will smite us with shame.
(6) In Reliance (Mt. 26:35) - the conscience, self-reliance.
“/Peter says to Him, Although it be absolutely necessary for me to die off together with You$, I positively will not utterly deny You$. Also all the disciples said in like manner” (Mt. 26:35 APT).
Reliance has to do with the intellect and convictions. Peter was relying upon himself, his convictions, and his own ability (strength) to stand firm for The Lord Jesus Christ and thus he failed. And so will we when we trust ourselves. If our convictions, however strong, are based upon the intellect and not upon The Lord Jesus Christ, we will fail. We must deny self-reliance. When Peter said “I will not deny him,” he was relying upon his own strength. The God said, “My glory I will not give to another'' (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). We need to deny self-reliance.
We have pride. The self-life wants recognition. We have emotions. The self-life wants relationships. We have a will. The self wills to rule. We have self-esteem. The self craves respect. We have a conscience. The self wants no reproach. We have intellect and convictions. The self wants to rely upon itself and not to rely upon another. And the self wants one other thing, rights. We must deny pride, emotions, self-will, self-esteem, feelings, self- reliance, and our rights.
(7) In Rights.
Peter denied The Lord Jesus Christ’s rights. Peter denied to The Lord Jesus the right to his loyalty, to his testimony, and to his support in trial. Do you, like Peter, deny The Lord Jesus Christ His rights in your life? What rights? The rights that we crave and at times even demand, but which we must surrender to Christ. These fall into seven categories, all of which are to be denied. These are the right:
(A) To React (Jas. 3:13-18): in resentment, to rant and rave, to run away if I don’t like what is taking place. We have the right to react. We have the right to respond to those who chide us. We have a right to react in resentment and anger when we are hurt or insulted or slighted. But you give up the right to react when you agreed to deny self, take up the cross, and become Christ’s disciple. Because the source of the reaction according to James is not The God but on the contrary, it is: Earthly, not Heavenly; soulish, not spiritual, and demonic not angelic.
“Who |is| wise and intellectually knowledgeable among you&? He is to show, out of his intrinsically good conduct of life, the works of his in meekness of wisdom. But if (and it is true) you& are having bitter, boiling jealousy and strife in the heart of yours&, stop jubilating for yourselves and lying against the truth! This /wisdom is not coming down from above, but on the contrary |is| Earthly, soulish, demonic. For where jealousy and strife |are|, there tumult and every bad [includes. worthless] matter |are|! But the wisdom from above on the one hand is firstly pure, thereupon peaceful, reasonable, easily persuaded, saturated [loaded to capacity] with mercy and beneficially good fruits, impartial, and unhypocritical. Then on the other hand fruit of the righteousness is being sown in peace by the ones making peace” (James 3:13-18 APT).
(B) To Reason (2 Pet. 3:16; Phil. 2:14): to rationalize Scripture and your actions.
“. . . according as also Paul, the beloved brother of ours according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you&; as also in all his Epistles, speaking in them concerning these things, in which some /things are difficult to comprehend, which things the ones untrained as disciples and unsteady [not firmly fixed] wrench [distort and twist original character or intended meaning of], as also The remaining Scriptures, to their own /utter destruction (2 Peter 3:16 APT).
“Continually do all things apart from murmurings and reasonings!” (Phil. 2:14 APT).
We have a right to reason things out the way we want, but are we going to deny this right and say, ‘Lord, I am going to give that right to you!’?
(C) To Receive: praise (Phil. 2:3,4), payment, pity, possessions from humans.
We have a right to receive praise. We can give that right to be praised to Christ.
“. . . not one thing |is to be done| according to strife or vainglory, but on the contrary with /humble-mindedness, ones deeming one another superior ones to themselves. You&, each one stop paying close attention to the things of themselves, but on the contrary, each one also |be paying close attention to| the things of others [different kind]! (Phil. 2:3,4 APT).
We have the right to receive payment. Why should I have to suffer because my customer who is a Christian has not paid me. I have a right to be paid. I have a right to have possessions. We can give that right to receive payment to Christ
We have the right to receive pity and acclaim. “After all we gave up so much to serve the Lord!” We have a right to be pitied, acclaimed, and paid well. But we willingly give up the right to serve The Lord, Christ.
The God is The Rewarder. It is He Whom we are to please and from whom we receive. Therefore the true disciple looks to Him alone for these and denies self from desiring, anticipating, expecting to receive from anyone other than Him. Jesus our Master and Lord, told us, “Freely or without cost you received [from The God and His Son], freely or without cost, give” (Mt. 10:8 APT). We are to be on the giving end, and not the receiving end here on Earth. Our receiving comes in Heaven. However, there are times God so graciously sees that His bondslaves care for us in times of need.
(D) To Refuse or Reclaim - refuse to give in (Col. 3:13); reclaim what (money, possessions) was borrowed from you (Lk. 6:35; 10:35).
“. . . ones forbearing and graciously pardoning one another of themselves [all in the corporate body]. If (and it may happen) anyone have a complaint against anyone, according as The Christ graciously pardoned you&, so yourselves |do| also (Col. 3:13).
“. . . And lend money, while hoping for not one thing in return! And your& /compensation shall be great and you& shall be sons of The Most High because He Himself is kind toward the ungrateful ones and wicked ones” (Lk. 6:35 Apt).
Just as the ‘good Samaritan’ in the story Jesus told paid the innkeeper and promised to repay whatever more he spend, so The Lord Jesus Christ will do the same.
“And upon the morrow when he exited, he cast out two denarii [a Roman silver coin, 1d = 1 day’s pay] and gave |them| to the innkeeper and he said to him, Take special care of him! and what ever at all you$ spend in addition, in the process of coming back again, I myself will repay to you” (Lk. 10:35 APT)
(E) To Relief, Relaxation, Release from the pressure, and Retire (1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Cor. 4:16; Phil. 3:12-14). After all you are burnt out. Right? But what did Paul tell the Corinthians?
“ So then, O my beloved brothers, become staunch ones, unshiftable ones all the time being in abundance in the work of The Lord, being aware that your& wearisome labor is not in vain in 0Lord (1 Cor. 15:58 APT).
“Wherefore we do not lose heart. But [on the contrary] even if (and it is true) the outward human of ours is being utterly destroyed by corruption, but [on the contrary] the inward one is being renewed day after day” (2 Cor. 4:16 APT).
Then he wrote of His pursuit to the Philippians:
“Not that I already received or already have been perfectly completed, but I persistently pursue if (and it is true) I appropriate also on the basis of which I also was appropriated by The Christ, Jesus. O brothers, I myself do not reckon myself to have appropriated. But one thing: on the one hand the things in back of |me|, are being forgotten; but on the other hand extending myself farther toward the things in front of |me|. According to 0goal, I keep on pursuing upon the prize [award for victory] of the vocation above from The God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14 APT).
Yes, we have the right to relief, relaxation, release, and to retire. But we willingly give up these rights for Christ.
| | understood $singular &plural +masc. ^fem. ~neut. /the
[ ]basic meaning italics = Center column reference in A Precise Translation
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