The General of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee (the statue in the picture is of him), was a man of honor and integrity, and he is known as one of the greatest leaders in all of American history. He had a particular abhorrence of selfishness that found its foundation in following after his Master, Jesus Christ. After the Civil War when a mother asked him what would be the greatest instruction she could give her infant son, his reply was, “Madam, teach him to deny himself.”
Those words resonate from our Lord as he too instructed that “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Even with the new position of justification that Christ has secured for every believer, we find a responsibility to deny ourselves. As the great Puritan John Owen explained this responsibility is “not self-wrought mortification” but is according to the covenant of grace offered through the gospel. He warns of a self-centered mortification of sin that is not suitable to the gospel in nature or effect for it produces deplorable self-righteous and anxious consciences. For the redemption of man’s soul is not calmed by him speaking peace to himself but by allowing God to speak His peace to his soul. Truly, this glorious peace is most clearly heard as man teaches himself to deny himself. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
In a season that can be marked by excess and self-indulgence, how will you practice the disciple of denying yourself?