What does Jesus mean when he says to deny ourselves?

Questions and AnswersCategory: Christian FaithWhat does Jesus mean when he says to deny ourselves?
Alexander asked 11 months ago

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭16:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

(and similarly Luke 9:23 & Mark 8:34)

What are we supposed to “deny” ourselves? And what does Jesus mean by “their cross”?


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1 Answers
Aaron Simms answered 11 months ago

Jesus is referring to the fact that our own works do not "earn" us salvation. It is only through Jesus’ work on the cross by which we are saved and reconciled to God. Thus, to be Jesus’ disciples we must die to the old and then receive his works as our own, which come to us through his cross. This is emphasized in the next verse where he says: "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16: 25). We "lose" our lives in Christ, but also gain new life in him. We die to the old and then rise to the new.

St. Paul makes this point in Romans:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him" (Romans 6:3-8).