What does it mean to deny ourselves? Must we suppress the ugly thoughts and feelings and lusts and angers that well up from the old nature within us? No, for we have no power to suppress them, as scripture says:
"For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Romans 7:18-19)
Paul speaks here of one who wants to do good and not evil, but fails. There is no power in the flesh to suppress evil, even after salvation, for no good thing ever dwells in the flesh. How then must we deny ourselves? After commanding us to deny ourselves, Jesus further instructs us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. To take up our cross daily is to die daily. What does it mean, then, to die daily? The answer can be seen through closer examination of the explanation Jesus gave for why it is necessary for us to do all those things: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it." (Luke 9 :24). The Greek word translated life in Luke 9:24 is psuche, which is more often translated soul in the New Testament, and our English word psyche is derived from that Greek word. Therefore the passage in Luke might be phrased thusly:
"And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his psyche shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his psyche for my sake, the same shall save it."
We therefore are instructed to lose our psyche for His sake. That is the daily death of the cross to which Jesus was referring; that is what it means to deny ourselves. How do we go about losing our psyche for the sake of Jesus? The first step is recognizing the utter bankruptcy and loathsomeness of our psyche; its intrinsic nature is worthy of damnation from God for ever. We must recognize that our psyche cannot be reformed; it must be crucified. If we will not confess that, then we will not give up our psyche for His sake. If we lose our psyche for His sake, however, we will find our psyche. Yet it is not the old psyche but a new psyche that we will find; we are given the Divine psyche, the Divine nature.
"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with [him], that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:" (Romans 6:6-8)
Therefore we lose one psyche on the cross, that we might gain a better. We lose our old life, that we might gain a new. We lose our old, rotten nature, that we might gain the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. We must daily do all of this in the faith (given by God) that we are "dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:11) Denying ourselves is denying that our old psyche is what we are. As it is written:
"Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (II Corinthians 5:17)
Therefore, when thoughts and lusts and feelings arise from the old nature, claiming to represent our heart, we must deny them in the faith of the Son of God, knowing that we are the new nature and not the old, always remembering that we have been purged from our old sins. Our new nature, as described in I Corinthians 13, "Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." (I Corinthians 13:5-7)
Our chief task every day is simply to be the new nature, for "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galations 5:24-25) To be the new nature is to be one with God, which is why He created us. Thus, we must also remember that the battle is the Lord's and that He wants to fight it together with us, teaching us how to use His armor to overcome the deadly wiles of our old psyche.
"(For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" (II Corinthians 10:4-5)