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Self Denial and Fasting

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Self Denial and Fasting

Text:  Matthew 16:24-28

Big Idea:  We must practice self-control to succeed at self-denial.

Purpose:  To instruct people


            Some people see no need for any kind of self-denial in their lives.

                        -If you’re able to do it, why not try?

                        -For those of us who do not see the need for self denial

                                    -life is governed by whims

                                    -and it is hard to develop a direction

            I hope, that most people will agree that there is some merit to self-denial.

                        -not allowing yourself to have something, even though you are able.


                        -Financially – helps a person save money for a large expense

                        -Physically – can help you stay fit, avoid dangers of alcohol, drugs

                        -Sexually – can preserve intimacy in a marriage relationship

            Spiritually, Self-Denial is an important virtue as well

                        Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him

                                    -it is a necessity

            This morning:  see the need,

                        But beyond that – consider:  How do we practice self denial?

                                    -especially when we are so prone to follow our desires.

                                    -and we have the ability

Sermon Body:

Movement 1:  *In order to follow Christ, we must practice self-denial.

            Self-denial means saying no to yourself, your own wants

                        -even when you have the ability and means to say yes

            Examples of Self denial

                        -small scale – offered desert – and avoiding

                        -affording a new vehicle – saying no, and donating to a charitable organization

            Sometimes, we don’t have to practice self-denial,

                        -because God says no for us

                        -teenager – wants to attend all-night party

                                    -precarious situations

                                    -filled with temptations

                                    -really wants to go – not sure it would be a good idea

                        Wise parents step in and to not allow it

                                    -a blessing to protect child

                                                -and a good decision

                        But that is not a teenager practicing self-control or self-denial

                                    -that is wisdom imposed from above

            God acts like this sometimes – closes doors to opportunities

                        -so that we can be protected from our own desires and foolishness

            However, for a teenager

                        -they will not always have parents in the house

                        -who will enforce them to act wisely

            First year college students

                        -often are forced to learn to practice self denial

                        -they can stay out all night, free from parental supervision,

                                    -able to make choices their parents would not allow

                        And all too often – those choices lead to devastation

                                    -poor grades, failing classes – missing career

-or worse – compromise themselves in ways that will affect their lives and reputations forever


                        Because they are not able to see that they must say not today

                                    -to get something better tomorrow

                        A party tonight

                                    -may mean loss of job forever

                        Saying yes to temptation

                                    -may close the door on future blessings


*We cannot hold on to Christ while holding on to our own desires.

            When we live to please ourselves, we are not loving God above all else

                        -which is what He calls us to do

            In Matthew, Jesus tells us that we cannot serve God and money

                        -love one and hate other, or vise versa

            I believe this is true about anything in your life that competes with God

                        -it has to submit to Him

            Even your own desires

If you want to become new in Christ

            -you have to let the old self die – the sinful nature

            -choked off when you practice self-denial and self control

But there is the problem

            -because practicing self-denial is easier said than done 

Suppose I have convinced you

            -good to practice self denial

            -will you actually do it?

We may have wonderful intentions

            -but find that our wills are weak when we fact tempting situations

Arthur – knew he wanted to stop drinking

            -offered a drink at a New Year’s Eve party – didn’t think one would be a problem

Callista – wanted to lose a few pounds after being diagnosed with diabetes

            -resolved to do it

            -until her dad’s birthday party – and offered a delicious piece of cake

You and I – may resolve – we will follow Christ

            -but what about the next time we face temptation

                        Especially on that has particularly strong pull at our desires

Movement 2: *Even if we want to deny ourselves, we face obstacles.

            Most notably – saying no to ourselves

            Sometimes I believe it is a great blessing that we do not have certain abilities

                        -if you were able to do anything you wanted

                        -money, abilities, resources, people to help

                                    -were no object

                        -what would you do?

                                    Millions of possibilities

-skiing vacations, learn to play an instrument, go back to school, have dinner with presidents,

            Our lack of abilities often stops us from pursuing self-gratification

                        -when we don’t have the resources, or when we believe it is immoral,

                                    -then we will say no to our desires

            But what happens when

                        -We have the resources

                        -We don’t see a long-term damaging cost

            More than likely, if it pleases us,

                        -we will do it

            It is difficult to practice self control

                        -rather than trying harder, we train

                        -saying no to ourselves to develop this ability

                                    Through fasting

                                                -voluntarily saying no to desires

                                                            -though it is permitted

                                                            -and though we are able

            Mechanics of fasting

                        -usually saying no to food

                        -some suggested – can be a number of items, tv, beverages, recreation activity

                        -most of the time – practiced in lent – what do you give up for lent?

*The spiritual discipline of fasting helps us:

-practice self control

            Because we commit to say no to our desires

                   -not because they’re wrong but because we want to pursue something better

            Last week – I mentioned that disciplines free us from self interest

                        -fasting does that wonderfully

            We are not perfect today

                        -and we will not grow in Christ from really trying harder in situations

                                    -that call for self denial

            Rather than trying harder

                        -we train ourselves to say no to our desires

            Equips us to deny ourselves the way that Christ commands.

-focus on God

            -every time we say no – and we have to frequently

            -we remember that we do it for Christ’s sake

                        -not that God cares whether or not we drink coffee or eat cake

                        -but we do it to exercise the ability to deny ourselves

-so that we can live for Him

-find time to pray

                        -when we release ourselves from these desires

                        -it can often free time to pray – chief of disciplines

Movement 3:  *The practice of self-control frees us from impulsive living.

-so many addictions that we recognize today

-sex addicts, tv addicts, drug, alcohol, tobacco

                        -people who cannot control their desires

            This is not a coincidence – many refuse to see value of self denial

                        -and then get caught up – slaves to their desires

            Good News of Jesus Christ

                        -you can be free from the desires that enslave you

                        -He has broken the bondage of sin

            Calls you to a life of service

                        -a life characterized by self-control and self denial

            A life that has much more joy than a life that is aimed to gratify desires.


            What do you want?

                        -a life that is held together by momentary pleasures

                        -each one exacting a cost

                                    -that eventually robs you of the joy in your desires

            That is what life without Christ will lead to


                        -you can practice self-control, self denial.

                        -for the greater joy – eternal joy

            Of Basking In Christ’s presence forever

                        -and the never-ending prosperity that comes in Him 

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