Lent is a period of 40 days prior to Easter (excluding Sundays). For many people it commemorates Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness. They “give up something” for Lent every year, like sweets or TV. This can yield spiritual benefits, but denying yourself things and denying yourself aren’t the same. In Luke 9:23, Jesus taught the latter.
This verse can be broken down into three parts. In the statement “If anyone desires to come after Me,” the word desires indicates that this is for sincere disciples only. In the phrase “let him deny himself,” the words let and denyhimself imply a willingness to renounce one’s selfish will and ways. And in the statement “take up his cross daily,” the word daily emphasizes a continual dying to self-will.
It’s easier to give things than to give ourselves. Yet Jesus gave Himself, and so must we. To those who deny themselves in obedient service, He has promised, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (v.24). And to His question, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed?” we are called to answer, “There is no profit!” We show that we believe this when we deny ourselves and follow Christ.
To follow Christ we must let go
Of all that we hold dear;
And as we do deny ourselves,
Our gains become more clear. —Sper
By living for ourselves we die; by dying to ourselves we live.