Then Jesus said unto His disciples,
“If any will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?.”Matthew 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-36
The word deny in the Greek is the word Aparneomai, meaning to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests. This word also means to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone. Aparneomai is made up of two Greek words: Apo, meaning any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed; and Arneomai, which means to deny, to deny someone, not to accept, to reject, or to refuse something offered. 
Just as Satan tried to offer the riches and kingdoms of this world to Jesus, Jesus refused, knowing the true riches were the ones with the Father in Heaven. Scripture likens the Word of God to a weapon; however this weapon is not the letter (literal/historical account) of the Word, but the Spirit (character) of the Word (ref Ephesians 6:17). Jesus was able to use the “sword of the Spirit” to battle against the letter of the Law that Satan spoke, when He opened up the parable of bread:
“He had not eaten for 40 days, so Satan tested Him with His hunger, asking Him to make the natural stones turn into bread. And Jesus, knowing the symbolic meaning, rebuked him saying, “It is written, man shall not live off bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God”.Matthew 4:4
He (Jesus) was speaking of the bread, or food, that was able to nourish the soul, whereas Satan was thinking of physical bread.
Not only must we deny our way of interpreting Scripture by the letter, we must also lay down our own wants and desires, so that we always have “our mind set on the things above instead of things on the Earth”(ref Col 3:2). Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is within us (ref Luke 17:21); and we are able to perceive the Kingdom of Heaven when we can understand the mysteries and secrets of the Kingdom, which are hidden in the parables (ref Matthew 13).
Apostle Paul, a messenger of God warns:
“Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His formed sight for you].”Romans 12:2 [AMP]
God says to the Prophet Jeremiah,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you; [and] I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”Jeremiah 1:5 [AMP]
To be separated and set apart is also the same as being Holy; Scripture says we must be Holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy (ref Matthew 5:48).
“We call a man holy,when his heart is conformed to some degree to the image of God, and his life is regulated by the divine precepts. Hence, holy is used as nearly synonymous with good, pious, godly.”
Jesus says we must deny ourselves to follow Him, promising truelife to whoever loses his life for His sake. When the disciples came to Jesus to ask why He spoke to the multitude in parables, Jesus replied that it had been given to them (the disciples) to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, but to them (those outside) it had not been given (ref Matthew 13). The difference between those people (outside) and the disciples was the time spent with Jesus. Scripture says when they were alone Jesus explained the parables to them (the disciples). They didn’t understand right away but they knew that Jesus had the words of eternal life (ref John 6:68) and they grew close to Him. They were dedicated learners of the Word, leaving everything to follow Him.
The pattern has not changed; Jesus is looking for true disciples who will deny themselves and follow after Him. How do we follow Him? As the disciples did; not by reading the Bible as a literal/historical book, but desiring to spend time with Him by understanding the mysteries of the Kingdom, spoken in the parables. By willing to learn what the Word is truly saying, we deny our old mindsets, and become perfect as our Father is perfect.
“(15) Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things] – these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself]. (17) And the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever.”( )1 John 2:15-17
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- Thayer Bible Dictionary/Strong’s definition
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- All Scripture AMP Bible