God's Roadmap

Now may the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father God, who loved us and in his wonderful grace gave us eternal comfort and a beautiful hope that cannot fail, encourage your hearts and inspire you with strength to always do and speak what is good and beautiful in his eyes (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 TPT).

Thursday, May 23, 2024

What Did Jesus Mean When He Told Us to Deny Ourselves?


by Barbara Latta @barbaralatta 

Jesus told His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23 NKJV)

Does this mean we are to carry a cross around? (Although there is a man who did this as a ministry years ago.)

I have heard some people express that certain pains or tragedies was their cross to bear. But Jesus wasn’t talking about life’s circumstances being a cross that was put upon us.

Jesus died on a cross in a selfless sacrifice to save sinners. He put aside His own needs and wants for the good of the whole world. Innocence killed because of the guilt of others.

His example is for us to deny ourselves for the good of others too.

Dying to self is taking up our cross and following Him. When we take up our cross, we identify with what Christ did. We humble ourselves to accept the cost that comes with being a disciple.

Denying ourselves doesn’t mean we don’t obtain some of the things we want. Psalm 37:4 tells us, Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

The key here is delighting in the Lord. When He is our delight, our desires will line up with His will and won’t be selfish.

Dying to self can’t be attained by behavior modification.  Denying self means crucifying the fleshly way of thinking. To put away selfish behavior, angry responses, unforgiveness, and bitterness.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV)

Our soulish realm is where we fail because our minds get in the way.

Only when we realize how much God loves us will we be able to let the Spirit of God shine through. Our behavior will exhibit the Holy Spirit’s fruit to other people (1 John 4:19).

Spiritual characteristics flow through the soul to create action. If our soul is contaminated with doubt and hurt, God’s spirit doesn’t shine. He is still there but His fruit is hidden.

When I was a child, my grandparents lived in a house out in the country that had a well. A bucket was tied to a rope on a post at the top and if you wanted water, you had to lower the bucket, scoop the water, then haul the bucket back to the surface.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)

The same is true with our inner being. We lower the bucket by digging into the Word and scooping that living water into our minds to drink so we can exhibit the gift that has already been given to us. The water in my grandparent’s well was always there, but if we wanted some, a person had to lower the bucket and get it.

There are many times I have let the flesh fly and the fruit remained in the bowl of my spirit (just ask my husband). But I am learning and as I study and pray, I am reminded more often of how the response that wants to come out is not one that would be godly actions.

Dying to self is not a one-time event. This action develops through daily fellowship with our Father. Abiding in the vine of Christ. This is where the strength comes from to control the emotional responses our flesh wants to express.

And of course, Jesus is the ultimate example. His entire ministry focused on fulfilling God’s will and ministering to people at the expense of His own comfort and safety. When dying on the cross, He still thought of others.

He asked God to forgive those who stood at the foot of the cross and mocked Him (Luke 23:34).  He thought of His mother and gave her care over to John (Luke 19:26-27).

Our actions and words will be dominated by whatever we focus on. When our priority is on God and not ourselves, His character will come out. This isn’t supposed to be something that takes effort because our efforts can’t make anything happen. He flows when we open the gate.

What did Jesus mean when He said to deny ourselves? Let the Holy Spirit have control.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)

Join the conversation and share your thoughts about what denying self means to you.


What did Jesus mean when He told us to deny ourselves?(click to tweet)

Only when we realize how much God loves us will we be able to let the Spirit of God shine through. Our behavior will exhibit the Holy Spirit’s fruit to other people (click to tweet)


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


  1. "Dying to self is not a one-time event." So true and so hard to accomplish on a daily basis. But the rewards are great when we put the needs of others above ourselves. Jesus is our best example and is with us every step of the way as we strive to be humble and loving. What a wonderful and inspiring message, Barbara! Thank you.

    1. Yes, Katherine, the rewards of following Christ do outweigh the hardships we may encounter in our lives. We know He is always with us to strengthen and guide us. Thanks so much for sharing. Blessings!

  2. Barbara, you've cleared up a common misunderstanding of the meaning of "take up your cross" and given some excellent mandates from Scripture that help us to imitate Jesus. Thank you!

    1. This expression has often confused me too. I'm thankful for godly leaders who helped me understand it better. Thanks for sharing, Annie. Blessings!

  3. So much depth in this post. I like this thought: Reflecting God's character does not take effort when we are firmly rooted in Him. It naturally flows. And what a true and important point you make when you write that dying to self cannot be achieved by behavior modification.

    1. I can attest to when I TRY to do something different, it doesn't work. Only when I can let the Holy Spirit control my thoughts and actions do I see results. If only I could always do that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Candyce. Blessings!

  4. Yvonne Morgan6/2/24, 3:57 PM

    Wonderful message and great way to explain dying to self. Something I struggle with so this was helpful

    1. As humans I think we all struggle with obeying this command. I'm thankful the Lord is so patient to continue teaching us. Thanks for sharing, Yvonne. Blessings!

  5. Amen Ms. Barbara. It comes down to wanting His will for us more than our own, doesn't it? Ms. Katherine was sure right; dying to self is not a static, one-time, event. It's something that, for me, has to happen many times each day. Those moments when I want to "speak my mind" but stop to speak His truth instead, often to myself. Those moments when I want to judge another, but am compelled to love them instead. What a great post ma'am. God's blessings.

    1. Wanting His will more than our own sums it up, J.D. Those moments when we want to do our own thing can show that we do need to stop and listen to His voice instead of our own. It would be so much easier if this could be just a one time decision, but yes it will be an ongoing experience as long as we are on this earth. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Blessings!