Most of us can already (at least to some extent) relate to this. When you are away from home and you stop at a restaurant to buy lunch, then you notice something on the menu that looks really delicious. If it is far more expensive than what you wanted to buy but you decide that you won’t buy it because you know it isn’t good for your bank account. You know that you can then use the money for important things, you are denying yourself of the food.
The Apostle Paul speaking by the Spirit of God said in Romans 14:17,
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Implying that the things that are contained in this kingdom (which you are now a part of as a child of God) are not physical things such as food and drinks but they are spiritual things – righteousness, peace and joy – all of which are found in the Holy Ghost.
Many times, for you to access spiritual things you need to forsake some natural things. This is the working modality of self denial in the kingdom. When you are in school and the people around you are not studying but you decide to study even though it may not be convenient. You know what it will do to your grades. It will positively affect your result.
The thing you should note about denying yourself is that it has two aspects. The things you have to give up now (i.e sacrifice) and the things that you will gain in the near or far future as a result.
So there’s what you give now and what you gain later.
To illustrate this point consider the parable of the rich young ruler with me and take note of the words of Jesus. Matthew 19:16-22 says,
“16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions”.
What happens when you deny a person food for a very long period of time? They die. It’s the same thing when it comes to denying your flesh to gain spiritually.
Whenever you deny yourself sleep in the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the night so that you can pray, you are denying yourself (i.e your flesh). You decide to give priority to studying the Word of God to endless unprofitable discussions, you are denying yourself. Whenever you decide to skip meals so that you can fast and pray that God blesses that friend who is going through a tough time or pray that that family member who is unsaved and on their way to hell encounters Christ, you are denying yourself.
Denying yourself is really just the key to death to self. It is the key to crucifying the flesh. Because when you become use to forsaking what is convenient for your flesh for what is expedient for your spirit, you build your spirit man and the flesh dies a natural death.
Titus 2:11-12 says,
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”