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By Pastor Paul Gauche

Today’s Word: ‘Denial’… as in it’s really not what you think.

In the Gospel of Mark (8:34-35), Jesus tells his followers: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Again, Jesus’s wisdom is so counterintuitive. Saving to lose, losing to find, taking up one’s cross to follow is not popular, comfortable, or even remotely life-giving.

But wait…

In the beloved classic ‘Discipleship’ (formerly The Cost of Discipleship), Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains the power of self-denial. Dietrich writes: “If any want to follow me, they must deny themselves.” Just as in denying Christ Peter said, “I do not know the man,” those who follow Christ must say that to themselves. Self-denial can never result in ever so many single acts of self-martyrdom or ascetic exercises. It does not mean suicide, because even suicide could be the expression of the human person’s own will. Self-denial means knowing only Christ, no longer knowing oneself. It means no longer seeing oneself, only him who is going ahead, no longer seeing the way which is too difficult for us. Self-denial says only: he is going ahead; hold fast to him.

Generally, none of us much likes the idea of saying ‘no’ to anything, much less saying ‘no’ to ourselves. But Dietrich reminds us that saying ‘no’ to ourselves and saying ‘yes’ to Christ actually sets us free. And this isn’t being set free ‘from’ anything or anyone. This is being set free “for” a new kind of life. A life … full of life and more life. So let’s just hold fast to him. Let’s hold on for dear life!


Paul Gauche is the Pastor of Life Transitions at Prince of Peace. His posts are part of his #100days50words project, where he blogs about a different word each week. You can follow his project on Instagram (@pgauche) or on his blog, Thriving Rhythms.


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