Mark 8:34-36 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
Most people know that Lent has something to do with self denial, the problem is that few know what that means or why one should do it. So lets begin with something simple. Suppose you arrived at church, and saw people sitting in the pew with picnic baskets filled with Sunday dinner, what would you do? Why you'd ask them, why? And they might say they had heard a rumor that since the attendance was poor at midweek Lenten service, that Pastor was going to give 2 sermons today, and they didn't want to miss their Sunday dinner, so they brought it with them. What would you say? You might think - why didn't someone tell me, so I could be prepared?
Its not everyone who goes to the opera, but if you ever do, it is important to know that the custom is to arrive early, because once it begins, the doors are closed, and you must wait till intermission to be seated. Why? To show respect for the performers. Now since we go to church to worship God, shouldn't we show God the same kind of respect, of arriving on time. And perhaps we ought to arrive a little early, to prepare ourselves to hear God's word, and to examine ourselves before going to the Lord's Supper. So, the simple question is, why do we arrive late?
Time for the 3rd question, we know that the 1st commandments tells us that we should have no other gods - we know that we believe in the Trinity, the question is what trinity do we believe in: is it, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - or is it the other trinity: me myself and I.
All of our questions revolve around the theme of our text, they all begin to look at the question, just what does it mean to deny yourself? Know one is ever going to deny themselves unless they know something about who God is, and how he cares for us. God made us and preserves us, and gives us each day our daily bread, that is everything we need to sustain this body and life. God redeems us, Jesus suffered and died to pay the debt of our sins, and rose from death, having conquered sin, death, and the devil, and then he gives to us the victory. In Jesus we have forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life. God also sanctifies us, he works a change in us that changes us from poor miserable sinners to the children of God. To work this change, the Holy Ghost calls us by the gospel, enlightens us with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in true faith unto life everlasting.
Now faith is a loyalty to God that trust that God will do everything that is necessary. The reason it is necessary to deny yourself, is not because you need to pay God for all that he has done for you. The reason you deny yourself, is to clear the space in your life so that there is room for God's grace and every blessing that is ours in Christ.
One of the ways we deny ourselves has to do with remembering our baptism, for we remember the grace and promise of God, and so we drown our old sinful nature and rise to the new life that is ours in Christ. This is why we remember our baptism daily, so that every day there might be room for all of the grace and blessing that God pours out for us in Jesus Christ.