A Monday Devotional on Self-Denial (Flavel)

The English Puritan Thomas Manton (1620-1677) wrote a helpful treatise on self-denial. He based the treatise on Jesus’ words from Matthew 16:24: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself...” (NASB). It’s a longer treatise with some very helpful insight. Here’s a paragraph that I marked up this morning. I hope it makes a nice Monday devotional for you!

….Jesus Christ came from heaven on purpose to teach us the lesson of self-denial: His birth, His life, His death was a pattern of self-denial. His birth was a great step from God’s presence into the virgin’s lap, a great condescension. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich” (2Co 8:9). None can deny themselves as much as Christ did because none was so rich as He was. We may talk of flocks and herds and the poor ornaments and supplies of a frail life; but He had the possession of a perfect happiness and glory in the divine nature. He was rich indeed. He needed not to have the respect of the creature to make Him happier. He was the Lord of glory and Heir of all things. Yet when He was thus rich, He made Himself poor. Not only did He subject Himself to the Law and the abject condition of the creature, but came in a poor, lowly way, not in pomp, not in a princely entourage.

As soon as He took our nature, He had a feeling of our lacking and miseries. He was therefore born in a lowly, obscure way. Born of a poor mother in a poor place, wrapped up in cheap and unworthy swaddling clothes, …the Heir of all things, the Lord of angels was thrust out among beasts in a stable. Christ would not come in pomp, but with slender provision and furniture, to put a disgrace upon worldly greatness and pomp. He would overturn the idol of the world, not only by power, but by the choice of His life.

And as His birth, so was His life. He was exercised with sorrows and labors. Christ was not a man of pleasure, but a man of sorrow. The apostle said, “Christ pleased not himself” (Rom 15:3) – neither in the choice of His own life nor in any delights that He could propose to Himself for His own profit and advantage. He was happy enough without them, even so in His death. If any had reason or cause to love his natural life, Jesus Christ had. His soul dwelt with God in such a fellowship as we are not capable of. Yet He gave up Himself to redeem us from the present world (Gal 1:4).

It is but ridiculous to profess Jesus Christ to be our Master, and not to conform to His example. We have no reason to be more tender and delicate of our interest than Christ was. What is our self to Christ’s self? We are poor creatures under a law. Christ was God over all, blessed forever (Rom 9:5). The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?” (Mat 10:25). We should not murmur: we cannot be worse used than Christ was. We have no cause to complain if we be reduced to a coarse robe when we remember Christ’s swaddling clothes, or to complain of a hard bed or prison when Christ was laid in a manger. Certainly, an innocent poverty is more comfortable than all the pomp in the world if we would but choose what Christ chose. Christ was a pattern of suffering from the cradle to the cross. They that caress themselves in all the delights of the world seem to profess another master than Christ….

Thomas Manton, A Treatise of Self-Denial, from Works, vol. 15, pages 187-188. (NOTE: I’ve edited the quote for readability.)

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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