Self Denial and Fasting
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
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
-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
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
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
-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