Deny Yourself

I think it is safe to say that many of us go through seasons of life where our fire for Christ doesn’t burn quite as hot as we would want it. Or maybe we have made some big decision for the Lord and ended up breaking our promise to him after only a few short weeks. Working in youth ministry caused me to see many times when maybe after a camp or big conference or something that students would be completely sold out for Jesus only to get home and return to their same habits. Not to say this was always the case or that it only happens with younger people. It may in fact be more common with older Christians. Whatever the case, is this really what Jesus meant as apart of the eternal life that he has given to us? look at how Jesus describes entering the kingdom to Nicodemus.

(John 3:3) Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus says you cannot even see Gods kingdom unless you are born again. In case you were wondering, the whole “born again” equation comes with some huge factors. In a literal sense you are completely recreated. Now, the question is “Why am I losing this burning fire for Jesus so quickly?” The hard truth is that you may not have had that fire to begin with. Maybe you have never truly been “born again.” I don’t think that is always the case in fact, I don’t think it is as much the case as you may think. Even after this mind blowing entering into the kingdom spill that Jesus gives to Nicodemus he has some instructions for us that are of equal importance.

(Luke 9:23) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Whatever you do don’t miss the word daily in this verse. Even after the dying to yourself and being born again in Christ there are still some daily implications for us. We don’t have to be born again again. That’s not what he’s saying. The spirit has been made new in him but there are still some habits that hinder our walk. Being born again is only the first step. That is why Christ says that we must “deny” ourselves. You want to know why our fire for the lord tends to follow an up down pattern? It’s because so many of us aren’t willing to deny ourselves and our desires in order to put him first. This is why John the Baptist says, “he must increase, but I must decrease.” Christian culture really lifts this one liner from John up and says, “What a powerful statement.” “John was so devoted.” Really, it’s just a duh statement. Of course, you must decrease so that he can increase! Because Christs glory can’t be made known in an area that is already filled with yours. There is just no room. I love how Paul puts it.

(Romans 12:1) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

   I have heard it said that the biggest problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps trying to crawl off the alter. But that is exactly what Christ has called us to be. A living sacrifice. That’s his whole point in telling us to deny ourselves. That is what he means when he says we must take up our cross daily. By taking up our instruments of torture we are presenting ourselves as a sacrifice. Paul says that is our spiritual worship.

So, what happens to this fire that we have? What makes us have good days and bad days in our walk? Most importantly, should we settle? The answer is no we should not settle. We should strive to bring ourselves to Christ as a living sacrifice. However, if we’re not careful that sacrifice will crawl right off the alter and back into the safe place that we have created for it. That is why we must take the command from Jesus to deny ourselves seriously. Because a sacrifice that has been denied the power to belong to anyone other than Christ is exactly what he is looking for. When we live as a sacrifice for Jesus, one that has been emptied of itself, then we can remain a burning aroma for the Lord. One that burns a sweet incense that is pleasing and acceptable to Him.

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