As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9, NASB) (See Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27)
Matthew was most likely acquainted with the ministry of the Rabbi from Nazareth because Jesus was ministering in Matthew’s town for some time. When the call goes forth to Matthew, “Follow Me,” immediately he responds and follows the Christ. The disciple hears the call of the Rabbi, leaves all, and follows Him immediately. The pattern keeps repeating itself because that is how Jesus wants us to respond to His call. The call has gone out, it is everywhere in the Scriptures. What is your response?
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26, NKJV) (See Matthew 16:24-27 and Mark 8:34-38)
Then He said. Recognize who it is who speaks. It is the Messiah, the Son of God. Whose Word are we going to listen to? Whose Word are we to desire? There is no other Word that compares. Listen Believer, because He is speaking to you. The sheep hear His voice:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. (John 10:27, NKJV, emphasis added)
If anyone desires to come after Me. His sheep will follow as John 10:27 says. A choice needs to be made. You are either one of His sheep and follow Him into discipleship, or you are not and don’t respond to His call. The disciple will respond and follow Him and chose to be led by the Holy Spirit in their walk with Him, our Rabbi and Shepherd.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14, NKJV)
Let him deny himself. Discipleship requires the disciple to deny himself. The self, or flesh, is no longer to be in control (Romans 7), but rather the Holy Spirit is in control because the disciple submits to the Spirit (Romans 8). THIS is what being poor in spirit is all about. Jesus lists this characteristic of discipleship first because discipleship begins here. The self is to die and the life in the Spirit is to take over. The disciple submits to this plan.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:12-13, NASB)
To die to the self is the result of killing the flesh and surrendering to Christ in the Holy Spirit. This is the message of becoming poor in spirit.
Take up his cross daily. The first century people knew what the cross represented – it represented death by crucifixion, one of the cruelest punishments ever created by man. Death on the cross is painful. And this death is to be experienced everyday by the disciple upon his cross. A daily choice to follow is to be made, to carry the cross, to die to self. The road is not easy, it is not fun. The disciple knows that the self-life has to die; to die every day, to die every moment.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13, NKJV)
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NKJV)
Though this comment was made in regards to marriage it applies nonetheless to denying the self:
In his book Life in the Spirit, Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: “The real cause of failure, ultimately, in marriage is always self and the various manifestations of self. Of course that is the cause of trouble everywhere and in every realm. Self and selfishness are the greatest disrupting forces in the world. All the major problems confronting the world, whether you look at the matter from the standpoint of nations and statesmen, or from the standpoint of industry and social conditions, or from any other standpoint-all these troubles ultimately come back to self, to ‘my rights,’ to ‘what I want,’ and to ‘who is he?’ or ‘who is she?’ Self, with its horrid manifestations, always leads to trouble, because if two ‘selfs’ come into opposition there is bound to be a clash. Self always wants everything for it-self. That is true of my self, but it is equally true of your self. You at once have two autonomous powers, each deriving from self, and a clash is inevitable. Such clashes occur at every level, from two people right up to great communities and empires and nations.”
Make the commitment today to die to the self and all its desires and to submit to the Holy Spirit and His desires for you.