Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1950

"Let Him Deny Himself"

Elbridge B. Linn, Denver, Colorado

Once in his travels, Jesus said to a man, "Follow me." But the man answered, "Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father." But Jesus said unto him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but go thou and publish abroad the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:59, 60.) Many may think this to be a strange statement coming from the Lord. It's meaning seems obscure. But it is apparent that the Lord meant this: let those who are dead spiritually (but alive physically) bury those who are dead physically. But the prohibition of Christ! Perhaps you have been disposed to pity this man, to think that such an act of necessity and love should be denied. Never fear, friend, for the character of Christ. He who wept at the grave of Lazarus so that the Jews cried, "Behold, how he loved him," would not deny a man the right to attend to the burial of his own father. But there is no real evidence that the father was dead.

It was an eastern proverb, "When I have buried my father, I will attend to such and such." When Jacob had deceived his father, Isaac, and had secured the blessing and birthright for himself which should have gone to Esau, the older brother, Esau was beside himself with hurt and anger. He said, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother, Jacob." (Gen. 27:41.) Now, as a matter of fact, Isaac was not dead, nor was he near death. He lived for many years after this. Yet Esau had said of him, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand." So it is to be doubted if the would be disciple's father were really dead. If he were, this son should have been at this very time engaged in the funeral preparations instead of being with the number listening to Jesus. The interment of the dead ordinarily took place before sunset on the day when they expired. This man probably had an aged father who could not be expected to live long, and when he was gone—and the inheritance divided—in other words, at his own leisure, he would be a follower of Christ. He is a type of the large class of people who want heaven in their own time and on their own terms.

"I ought to...but".

Another said to Jesus, "I will follow thee, Lord; but first suffer me to bid farewell to them that are at my house." The reply Christ made indicated that he knew this man was not willing to put him first. Do you ever walk through a cemetery and see over a grave a broken column? It was to signify the death of someone who was taken away in youth, before as yet his life had reached maturity. Life is filled with the broken purposes and resolutions of those who were once in a hopeful state. On every hand are there the people who have once started to do what was right, who have purposed to do so, but like the youth whose life was cut short, so their spiritual growth has been paralyzed before it was scarcely begun. You have heard often something like this, "I know that I ought to become a Christian, but, ah..." "I know that God wants me to serve him faithfully, but..." "I know I ought to read my Bible more, but..." "I know I ought to be humble and pray, I know I should meet with other Christians upon the first day of the week to observe the Lord's Supper... I know I ought to confess faith in Christ and be baptized into his body, but..." There is always the broken purpose, the defeated, incomplete life.

Have you ever said anything like this? I beg of you to remember that you must count the cost of a divided love, of a divided loyalty. You cannot—because you will not—serve the Lord until you love him supremely.


Consider still another saying of Jesus. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Mark 8:34.) Perhaps we would do well to think more about this matter of self-denial. That's not a very popular theme. We can think of a number of discussion topics more pleasant than this one. But none can be more fundamental. It may be true that self-preservation is the first law of nature, but self-denial is the first law of grace! "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself," said Jesus. The Lord calls upon us to deny ourselves only of those things which tend to keep us from loving and serving him. And whatever stands between us and our Savior must be completely denied—eliminated from our lives.

Christ lays a cross upon our shoulders, too. That is, we are called upon to crucify sin and to live sacrificially for others and for the kingdom of God. Too, we must be willing to bear the crosses of sorrow, trouble, and pain without grumbling, or doubting the love of God. We must follow in the steps of Jesus in our willingness to accept whatsoever God may lay upon us.

Now it is quite possible that someone is thinking, "Well, you have made it too hard. How many people do you think will be ready to follow Christ if they are required to do all this." But stay! It is not I who have made these requirements; it was Jesus himself who said we are to love him supremely, deny ourselves, take up the cross daily, and follow him. He is the one who has laid down the terms of discipleship. And he asks us simply to count the cost before we enter into it.

Bargain-Counter Religion

We are convinced that the masses of people today are shopping at the religious bargain-counter. They want the goods marked down. They want things made a little easier to get. If they can largely have their own way, they will not mind following Jesus to a certain extent. If they are not required to give up worldliness, they will take a little spirituality. But Christ hasn't opened a bargain-basement! He gives salvation, remission of sins, to all who give him their hearts and their lives. Count the cost, friend. You cannot have light and darkness all at one time; you cannot have good and evil to rule your life simultaneously. When you take Christ, you forsake Satan, and darkness, and evil. If you have not forsaken Satan and evil, then you have not begun to follow Christ. Here is the crux of the whole matter; here is the fork of the road; this is the hour of decision; here you count the cost. Christ knows that unless you make a clean and total commitment of your life, you will never follow him home to the Father.

It may not take much of a man to be a Christian but it does take all there is of him.