Have you ever known someone who, if you ask them what time it is will tell you how to build a watch? Well, that someone is probably me. In self defense, I have found that preachers are much the same. In a sermon with a thesis, three points, and an application most preachers can miraculously stretch what could be said in ten minutes into forty-five. Well, Christ only needed a couple of minutes to say what was important for us to know about self denial.
First of all it is not about what we do, but rather how we think about what we do. Self denial is not about denying ourselves material things, but rather it is about being in denial about ourselves. We love this world. Oh, we Christians complain about how bad the world is, and how evil everyone else is, but if you consider our actions and thought processes, concluding that we prefer this world to the next would be a logical conclusion. We love the world just fine. We really don’t want to give it up.
We tend to have the same problem that those who were following Christ around at the time of this passage had. Those people, particularly the recently fed five thousand, were following him for the sole purpose of what they had determined he would do for them right at that time. They loved the world and wanted Christ to make it even better for them. What they did not understand was that where Christ was leading them was to another kingdom. “Coming after” Christ is about following him with the understanding that he is leading you home, away from this world, where we will no longer be aliens. It is not about what he can give us now. In fact it is not about us at all. So when we are asked to deny ourselves, rather than give up beer, (unless your wife tells you to), be willing to give up your efforts to hang on to your views about what Christ came to do on earth. He did not come to make this life more pleasant, nor set up a political theocracy, or to make America great, nor Israel a country in Palestine. He came to redeem a people for himself who will worship him for eternity in spirit and in truth.
As followers of Christ we must be willing to lose this life. I’m not talking about some morbid fascination with physical death. It is the desire to see the death of the old man that still exists in us. Our home is where Christ is, in Heaven. The old man has his home here. We must be future focused. We also must be Church focused because those are who we are traveling with. Although Willie Nelson probably did not intend his song to be in the Gospel genre, I like to apply the lyrics to his most famous hit “On the Road Again” to my life. “All I want is to be on the road again, going places that I’ve never been. The life I love is making music with my friends… Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway. We’re the best of friends, insisting that the world be running our way.” Nelson loved to tour with his band, he loved what they did, and he hated when they were idle. We should love to follow Christ with the Church to our home, singing, praising, and glorifying the Triune God all they way and by doing so point others in our direction. Think about that next Lord’s Day when you enter in to your worship service like a band of gypsies.