Self-Denial and the Daily Cross (Part 1)

This teaching–written over 120 years ago by a respected, Godly scholar–adresses a central, yet radical, aspect of the way to abundant life in Christ. – JBW

“I can do all things,” I have resources for all circumstances, ” in Him that strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13).

But already the earnest soul, athirst for a personal experience of what we have been depicting [practical holiness], has asked itself, How shall I, with my thousand difficulties, get what I thirst for? [Now]… we will try to deal with the one difficulty that underlies the thousand. That difficulty is “Self.” And Self-denial is the first condition to this life of calm and humble spiritual victory, or better call it, spiritual deliverance.

It is no unconditional thing. Right and left, the highway of holiness has its edge, its limit, its sine qua non.[1] On the one hand, the Lord, and childlike trust in

Him and in His words. On the other hand, amongst other things, but supreme amongst them, Self-denial and the daily Cross…

If any man will come, willeth to to come, after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Let us study these familiar words a little in detail.

1. Observe the universality of reference. “If any man wills to come after Me; whoever desires to follow My lead; then let this man, be he who he may, do thus: Let him deny himself, and daily take up his cross, and follow Me. Let any man who wills to follow Me, and does not do thus, by no means marvel if his following, such as it is, proves to be a disappointing, a disheartening thing. Let such a one prepare to find My yoke uneasy, and My burden heavy., and My commandments grievous,”

2. Then “let him deny himself.” Always let us emphasize, in thought and in tone, that last word, “let him deny himself.” And what is Self-denial? The word is often and much mistaken in common use, as if it meant much the same as self-control the control of lower elements of our being by higher. If a man postpones the present to the future, resolving on present loss for the sake of future gain, this is often called self-denial. If a man, for some high object of his own, abjures inferior pleasures, “scorns delights, and lives laborious days,” this is often called Self-denial. If, in the highest sphere, for the sake of rest hereafter, he inflicts on himself great unrest now, this too is often called self-denial.

Now the doing of such things may be wrong or may be right in itself; but it is not self-denial, as the phrase is used here assuredly by our Lord. Take the New Testament and try the case by the words “deny,” “denial,” in successive passages; I think it will be seen that self-denial is not self-control. In all cases at all in point, “to deny ” much more resembles in idea “to ignore” than “to control.”

It means to turn the back upon, to shut the eyes to, to treat as non-existent. ” I will deny him” (Matt. 10:33; I will say, I know him not). “He cannot deny Himself”(2 Tim. 2:13; He cannot ignore His own hand in His own written promise). “Let him deny him self”; (let him ignore self; let him say to self, I know thee not, thou art nothing to me).

In effect, may we not say, the Lord’s precept comes to this the real displacement of self from the throne of life in its purposes and hopes, and the real enthronement of Another. It comes to unqualified self-surrender. I attempt no refinements. We all practically understand what we mean when we speak about self and its surrender, and the enthronement of Jesus Christ. We mean that whereas yesterday our aims, many of them, some of them, one of them, terminated in ourself, today, so far as we know, they all terminate in our Lord…

This is the self-denial of the saints. It is no fanatical, no visionary thing, it does not mean a mechanical asceticism. It does not, of any necessity in itself, contradict or condemn the most natural activities and interests of human life, as such. It does not absorb nor cancel personality. Rather this is the very thing to enrich the resources of personal being, and to develop its exercises. But it has lodged it, as to its whole purpose and working, upon another centre, even Jesus Christ the Lord…

Biblical quotations were from the KJV. Italics added

Part 1 of 2

From Chapter 2 of Thoughts on Christian Sanctity, LONDON SEELEY & Co, ESSEX STREET, STRAND 1888.

[1] sine qua non: (Latin) something absolutely indispensable or essential, (as in) “reliability is a sine qua non for success.”


“H. C. G. Moule… became first principal of Ridley Hall

Theological College, Cambridge, in 1881, and Norrisian Professor ofDivinity in 1899. Moule was a convinced evangelical, but wasunderstanding of other views… He was closely associated with theKeswick Convention. Although he was a profound scholar, he could speakand write for ordinary people…”-

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