The Narrow Way of Bearing the Cross and Denying the Self unto New Jerusalem

Matthew 16:24-25, “Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it.” These words are followed by the Son of Man coming in His glory and in His kingdom, both of which point to New Jerusalem. This is the constricted way the Lord spoke about in Matthew 7.

New Jerusalem

This subject seems negative, BUT remember, the death of our natural life manifests the resurrection life, the only life present in New Jerusalem. “Always bearing about the putting to death of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested” (2 Cor. 4:10).

Here is one key point or verse from each post in this series, with a link to the post.

The death of Christ terminated all negatives, redeemed God’s people, released the divine life, and created the new man.

We were crucified with Christ and also raised with Him (Rom. 6:6, Col. 3:1).

Christ offered Himself to God through the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14). In this Spirit His death and His life are available to us.

Objectively, positionally, we are in all that Christ has done. Yet now we need to grow into this subjectively, experientially. Galatians 2:20 is about our experience.

Christian growth in life is gradual (Gal. 4:19). To deny ourself is the key to growth.

The Lord’s words about denying our self, our soul life, begin in Matthew 10:38, “he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

Luke adds a word not in Matthew, “If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Luke 14: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own soul-life, he cannot be My disciple.” If we are not disciples, how will we be in New Jerusalem?

Denying and losing the soul life is our responsibility, yet self cannot deny self. We apply the death of Christ in Spirit. Romans 8:13 says, “by the Spirit you put to death…”

The Lord told us to deny ourself, and He did this. An example: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26).

In John 7 and 8 the Lord declared that He did not seek His own glory.

To deny ourself is to deny our opinions, preferences, like and dislikes, complaints, and vain talking. Perhaps none are evil, but they are self and will not be in New Jerusalem.

Denying and losing the self seems negative, but death is followed by resurrection. We are being put to death that the life of Jesus may be manifested (2 Cor. 4:10-12).

The word of the cross is…to us who are being saved…the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

We boast in Christ Jesus and long “to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:3, 10).

To deny the self requires constant exercise, empowered by His resurrection with a longing for the fuller resurrection at His return and the fullest in New Jerusalem.

Looking away unto Jesus” enlivens us to be delivered unto death and to deny ourself.

The denial of our soul life is presented in Ephesians 4:22: “That you put off, as regards your former manner of life, the old man. Then we put on the new man who continues into New Jerusalem.

To deny our self and lose our soul life is to take the constricted way which leads to life (Matt. 7:14), eventually to the city of life, New Jerusalem.


Bible verses quoted in these posts are from The Holy Bible, Recovery Version, published and © by Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim CA, 2003. The New Testament of this Bible, with its outlines, footnotes, and cross-references, is at online.recoveryversion.org; this too is © by Living Stream Ministry.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Not Loving the Soul Life – Examples

Revelation 12:11 speaks of those who “overcame him [the Devil] because of the blood* of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their soul-life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). Not loving the soul life equals denying it, fulfilling the Lord’s command in the gospels. This denying, and the losing of our soul life, are to follow the Lord, to be His disciples, and to participate in His glory and kingdom, both of which consummate in New Jerusalem.

New JerusalemIn Acts 7 Stephen boldly testified for the Lord. Then, while dying, he unselfishly prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

In Acts 15 the apostles and elders in Jerusalem recommended Barnabas and Paul as “Men who have risked their [soul] lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:26).

In Acts 20:24 Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, where he was arrested. He declares, “I consider my [soul] life of no account as if precious to myself, in order that I may finish my course and the ministry which I have received from the Lord Jesus.”

In Philippians 2:25-30 Paul commends Epaphroditus. “Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honor, because for the work of Christ he drew near unto death, risking his [soul] life…” (v. 29-30).

Lord, have compassion on me that I may love You completely. For Your ministry now and for New Jerusalem, make me one who risks my own soul life, not counting it precious.

* Notes 2, 3, 4 on Rev. 12:11 are about the blood, the word of testimony, and not loving.

Not Loving the Soul Life for New Jerusalem

Near the beginning of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus told us to deny our self, take up our cross, and lose our soul life. This denying, taking up, and losing is the practical termination of our natural life so that His resurrection life, the life of New Jerusalem, may be manifested.

New JerusalemNear the end of the New Testament we read about some who faithfully carried out this word of the Lord. “They [some believers] overcame him [the Devil] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their soul-life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). Not loving the soul life = denying it.

In Revelation 2 and 3 the Lord had multiple churches in Asia Minor, yet He was not satisfied. In the epistle to every church, he called for overcomers. Even in speaking well about Philadelphia, He called for overcomers. And in Revelation 12 we see that He gained some.

These overcomers “loved not their soul-life even unto death.” In contrast, they loved “our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruptibility” (Eph. 6:24). This means that they loved the Lord absolutely. They did not love with any selfish motive* but denied themselves.

Incorruptibility is a characteristic of New Jerusalem. We need to deny even our natural love for the Lord, that we may love Him with this incorruptible love. We love Him in this way now, when He comes, and unto New Jerusalem.

*James and John loved the Lord Jesus, but in the early years they loved selfishly. They asked, “Grant to us to sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:37). In their later years, after the Lord’s resurrection, they were faithful unto death.
Photo courtesy of Burning Well.

 

Death & Resurrection unto New Jerusalem

The Lord Jesus asks us to deny ourself, take up our cross daily, and lose our soul life. This is our path to New Jerusalem but it seems quite negative. But remember, the Lord’s death is followed by resurrection. The Lord’s death applied in us is followed by His resurrection applied in us.

New Jerusalem is a city of resurrection, not a city of our natural life. Our natural life must be denied so that resurrection life can spring forth.

New JerusalemDeath and resurrection was the life of the Lord Jesus and today it is our life. Second Corinthians 4 speaks of this. Verse 10: “Always bearing about in the body the putting to death of Jesus that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

Verse 11: “We who are alive are always being delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

When the Lord returns, we will experience the redemption of our mortal body. Until then we bear, not an ordinary death, but “the putting to death of Jesus” that the resurrection life may be manifested. This manifestation will continue eternally in New Jerusalem.

Verse 12 says that death operates in us. This is our experience of the cross. Verses 13-14 say we have a spirit of faith, “knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” This coming experience of resurrection brings us into the manifestation of the kingdom and then to New Jerusalem.

Photo by David Goodrich, courtesy of U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (6)

New JerusalemThe Lord Jesus, as a man on earth, did not seek His own will nor His own glory. He is a pattern to us and asks us to follow Him, denying ourself and not loving our soul life. so that His eternal life can spread in us to prepare us for New Jerusalem.

Besides self-will and self glory, other aspects of self to be denied are opinions, preferences, complaints, vain talking, and the ways I like to do things. Perhaps none of these are evil, but they are self. The Lord tells us to deny our self, good or bad, to follow Him and be worthy of Him.

If we don’t deny ourself, we will be like those in Philippians 2:21, “all seek their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus.”

Our self is our old man, the man of God’s creation who was corrupted by Satan. The denying of the self is the putting off of the old man, which is necessary to put on the new man of God’s new creation, the forerunner of New Jerusalem.

Christ first carried the cross and then was crucified. But the believers in Him are first crucified and then carry the cross that they may remain in the termination of their old man, thus experiencing and enjoying Christ as their life and life supply.*

Although the Lord had a physical cross, He also bore the cross internally throughout His ministry. We also bear an internal cross, “by the Spirit putting to death.” The life released through the cross brings us to New Jerusalem.

Part of the footnote on Luke 14:27 in the Recovery Version NT, footnotes written by Witness Lee,

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (5)

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke the Lord told us to deny our self, take up our cross, and lose our soul life. In John He presented Himself as a pattern of this denying. The immediate goal of these actions is to follow Him and to be His disciple.

New JerusalemThe broader goal, shown in His speaking following this subject, is His second coming, His glory, and His kingdom. If we follow Him in denying and losing, we will participate in these blessings on our way to New Jerusalem.

The Lord is our pattern. In John 5:30 He told us, “I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.”

In John 6:38 He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” To deny ourself is to deny our own will, to not seek or do what we want.

In John 7 He said, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him, this One is true, and unrighteousness is not in Him.” And in John 8, “I do not seek My glory.” He denied Himself by not seeking anything by Himself or for Himself.

To follow the Lord, we cannot seek our glory, our prestige, our fame. We are only earthen vessels to express the Lord, with New Jerusalem as the ultimate vessel of glory.

 

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (4)

New JerusalemThe Lord Jesus laid down His soul life to release eternal life to us (John 10:10-11). This eternal life is the life of New Jerusalem and brings us to New Jerusalem.

The Lord also asks us to deny our self, which is to lay down our soul life. To help us understand this, consider some words of the Lord about denying Himself.

Matthew 26 records His prayer shortly before His arrest, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” The Lord denied Himself by denying His own will.

In John 14 He told us, ” The words that I say to you I do not speak from Myself, but the Father who abides in Me does His works” and ” the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” The Lord denied Himself by not speaking His own words but taking the Father’s words.

To deny ourselves is needed to follow the Lord and to follow Him is the path to New Jerusalem. This requires us to deny our will, our words, and our works. Our will, our words, our works have no place in New Jerusalem.

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem (2)

Our path through the cross to New Jerusalem includes 1) the accomplishments of the Lord Jesus in His death on the cross, 2) their objective application to us through believing and baptism, and 3) our subjective experiences by denying our self, taking up our cross, and losing our soul life, our fallen natural life. The degree to which we lose our soul life is the degree to which the Lord’s eternal life can grow in us.

New JerusalemThe Lord’s word about denying our self in Luke 9 is “let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” This is not once-for-all; it is continual, throughout our Christian life until we die or until the Lord returns.

In Luke 14 the Lord gives us another unique word—we need to hate our soul life. He makes this equivalent to carrying our own cross and says that without this hating and carrying, we cannot be His disciple.

If we are not His disciples, we should not expect to be in New Jerusalem. However, He is merciful, and He will eventually discipline us to be worthy of New Jerusalem.

This is the narrow way of the cross to New Jerusalem.

Photo by R. L. Lake, courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

Through the Cross to New Jerusalem (6)

Continuing from Matthew 10 and 16, Mark 8 and Luke 9 also have the Lord’s words about denying the self, taking up the cross, and losing the soul life. Luke 9 adds one word not in Matthew and Mark: daily. “He said to them all, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (v. 23). Verses 24 and 25 are about losing the soul life for the Lord’s sake.

New JerusalemVerse 26 continues, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of this one will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Lord, save me from any shame about You and Your words.

In Matthew 16, Mark 8, and Luke 9 the portion about denying the self is immediately followed by Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, which He describes as “the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” This coming, in glory, foreshadows the coming age which leads to New Jerusalem.

The path to New Jerusalem includes the cross now, the manifestation of the kingdom in the coming age, and then New Jerusalem itself. To be on this path, we must apply the cross of Christ to our soul life. The cross is available to us through the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14). Thus, it is by the Spirit, not by natural effort, that we go through the cross toward New Jerusalem.

Graphic courtesy of pixabay.com.

Deny the Self for New Jerusalem

New JerusalemWe have, objectively, all that Christ accomplished through His death and resurrection. Now this must become our constitution by Christ increasing in us and our self decreasing.

This decrease is through our denying our self to apply, in spirit, the death of Christ to our natural being. Our denying ourself is part of our journey through the cross to New Jerusalem.

The Lord’s words about denying our self, our soul life, our natural life, are in five different chapters. In Matthew 10:38 He said, “he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” The next sentence has denying the soul life. If we do not take our cross / deny our soul life, we are not worthy of Him. How then could we be worthy to participate in New Jerusalem?

In Matthew 16 the Lord spoke again about denying the self, taking the cross, and losing the soul life. This is in the context of His building the church, his Body, which He is building by flowing out through His members, as revealed in Ephesians 4:15-16. His Body, composed of Him mingled with His believers as the members of His Body, is the forerunner of New Jerusalem.

 

Through the Cross to New Jerusalem (5)

Positionally we have all that Christ accomplished through His death and resurrection. Now it gradually becomes part of our living, expressed in our daily life. This maturing in life is a foretaste of New Jerusalem, the ultimate corporate expression of Christ.

Growth in the Christin life is a gradual process. This life is Christ Himself. As He increases and spreads in us we grow. Some verses about this progressive growth:
• “My children, with whom I travail again in birth until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19)
• “That He would grant you…to be strengthened…that Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.” (Eph. 3:16-17)
• “The Head, out from whom all the Body…grows with the growth of God.” (Col. 2:19)

New JerusalemOur gradual entering into the experience of all that Christ is to us is our growth in Christian life. This is in resurrection. How does this relate to going through the cross to New Jerusalem? The answer is: for Christ to increase in us requires the decrease of our natural life.

There are three New Testament Greek words translated life in English; one indicates our physical life, one our psychological life (soul life), and one eternal life. For the increase of eternal life, the Lord instructed us to deny our self life. “Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it; but whoever loses his soul-life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

To deny ourself is to follow the Lord; this is the key to Christian growth and is how we progress by the cross to New Jerusalem.

 

New Jerusalem: God’s Slaves Serve Him (2)

New JerusalemRevelation 22:3 says that in New Jerusalem God’s slaves will serve Him. The prior post presents New Testament verses identifying specific people and also all His disciples as God’s slaves.

The pattern for all God’s slaves is the Lord Jesus Himself. Philippians 2:5-8: “Christ Jesus,…existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God a treasure to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave…He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death.”

His obedience as a slave unto death and His subsequent resurrection opened the way for us to reach New Jerusalem. This is portrayed by the pearl gates of the city. The twelve gates of New Jerusalem are twelve pearlsJesus Opened the Pearl Gates, Let’s Enter!

The Lord, being in the form of a human slave, was obedient unto death. This matches His word in to us Matthew 16 to deny our soul life. This denying is unto death, as He prayed in Gethsemane immediately before His arrest, “My Father…not as I will, but as You will.” Many of His slaves lived this way, as Revelation 12:11 declares, “they [His slaves] overcame him [the devil] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their soul-life even unto death.”

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus emptied Himself and humbled Himself. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). In our serving God as slaves, denying ourselves includes denying our pride. Then God will grace us.

Second Peter ends, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and unto the day of eternity.” The grace we obtain in humility, and knowing the Lord as the slave who emptied Himself, will bring forth glory to God “both now and unto eternity [New Jerusalem].”

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