Faithlife Sermons

SELF-DENIAL (2)

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 16 views
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

SELF-DENIAL

The denying ourselves and the taking up our cross, in the full extent of the expression, is not a thing of small concern: It is not expedient only, as are some of the circumstantials of religion; but it is absolutely, indispensably necessary, either to our becoming or continuing his disciples. It is absolutely necessary, in the very nature of the thing, to our coming after Him and following Him; insomuch that, as far as we do not practise it, we are not his disciples. If we do not continually deny ourselves, we do not learn of Him, but of other masters. If we do not take up our cross daily, we do not come after Him, but after the world, or the prince of the world, or our own fleshly mind. If we are not walking in the way of the cross, we are not following Him; we are not treading in his steps; but going back from, or at least wide of, Him.

Denying Ourselves

Self-denial should not be difficult for any Christian to understand for this is what it means to become a Christian. It means to have turned your back on any attempt to please God through your own human abilities and efforts, and instead to have accepted by faith what God has done in Christ for your salvation. No one can save himself or herself. So we stop trying. We die to our efforts. We must say no to them. When we have done this, we receive God’s salvation as a free gift. Living the Christian life is, therefore, only a matter of continuing in the way we have started. Yet this is difficult to apply. This principle is so uncongenial that even Christians quickly forget it and try to live by other standards.

SELF-DENIAL

To experience death and denial means we must be willing to say no and then actually say no to anything that is contrary to God’s will for us. This includes anything contrary to the Bible. We are free from law in the sense of being under a list of rules and regulations. But we are to obey the law in the sense that it reveals the nature of God and shows us those areas of life which by the power of God we are to say no to in order that we might go on with Christ.

SELF-DENIAL

The first of the Ten Commandments is an example: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Here is a negative, an obvious one. It tells us that we are to say no to anything that would take God’s rightful place in our lives. Is it an actual idol? We must say no to the idol; we must burn it or destroy it, as many primitive people have done when they have responded to the gospel. Is it money? We must get rid of the money for it is better to be poor and yet close to Christ than rich and far from him. Money is not something that necessarily takes the place of God in a life. It is possible to be a devoted and deeply spiritual Christian and rich at the same time. But if money has become a god, then we must say no to it. Has another person taken the place of God? Has a business? An ambition? Your children? Fame? Achievement? Whatever it is, we must say no to it if it is keeping us from Christ.

SELF-DENIAL

If you want to test yourself on this, you may do so with each of the other commandments. “You shall not kill.” We are to say no to any desire to take another’s life or slander his or her reputation. “You shall not commit adultery.” We are to say no to any desire to take another man’s wife or another woman’s husband. “You shall not steal.” We should say no to the desire to take another person’s property. If we have not said no at these points, we can hardly pretend that we are living in the newness of Christ’s resurrection life. Indeed, we are not living the life of Christ at all.

SELF-DENIAL

To experience death and denial we must also say no to anything that is not the will of God for us. This goes beyond the previous point about the law. Not everything permitted in the Word of God is God’s will for us. For instance, there is nothing wrong with marriage. In fact, the contrary is true. Marriage has been established by God and has his blessing. Still, marriage may not be the will of God for you; and if it is not, then you must say no to marriage, consciously and deliberately. The same thing holds for a profession, our own conception of ourselves and other things.
Is this hard? Yes, it is hard. It is hard for the strongest saint as well as for the weakest sinner. Here is Augustine’s description of the struggle that went on in him:

SELF-DENIAL

The new will that had begun in me—and made me want to be free to worship and to enjoy you, God, the only certain joy—was not yet strong enough to overpower the old will that had become tough with age. So there were now two wills battling it out inside me, one old, one new; one carnal, one spiritual; and in the conflict they ripped my soul to pieces.

SELF-DENIAL

Thus I was put under pressure by the oppressions of the world, but I took it all with a light heart, like a man sound asleep. When I did think about you, my meditations were like the feeble struggles of a man who is trying to wake up but is overcome with drowsiness and falls back to sleep. I had no answer when you said, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” You used every possible means to communicate to me the truth of your words. You had me under conviction so that I could give no reply except a lazy and drowsy, “Yes, Lord, yes, I’ll get to it right away, just don’t bother me for a little while.” But “right away” didn’t happen right away; and “a little while” turned out to be a very long while. In my inmost self I delighted in the law of God, but I perceived that there was in my bodily members a different law fighting against the law that my reason approved and making me a prisoner under the law that was in my members, the law of sin. For the law of sin is the force of habit, by which the mind is carried along and held prisoner against its will, deservedly, of course, because it slid into the habit by its own choice. Messed-up creature that I was, who was there to rescue this doomed body? God alone through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Augustine’s words are a classic statement of the divided will and of the difficulty of surrendering that will to God. On the other hand, here is a classic statement of the blessing of having denied oneself for Christ—from the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis: “O Lord, thou knowest what is the better way; let this or that be done as thou shalt please. Give what thou wilt, and how much thou wilt, and when thou wilt. Do with me as thou knowest, and as best pleaseth thee, and is most for thy honor. Set me where thou wilt, and deal with me in all things just as thou wilt.… When could it be ill with me, when thou wert present? I had rather be poor for thee, than rich without thee. I rather choose to be a pilgrim on earth with thee, than without thee to possess heaven. Where thou art, there is heaven; and where thou art not, there is death and hell.”
How can you know when you have said no? When you have stopped complaining. If you are murmuring, as the Israelites murmured in the wilderness, you have not really turned your back on Egypt. If you have stopped murmuring, you are ready to press on.
Related Media
Related Sermons