Blog by Elijah Kadadu
Denying ourselves? I do not want to do that; I am trying to exalt myself! I want to make myself known because I... am... important! I have an opinion! I have great ideas! I know the way! Let me defend myself here and tell you how right I am. Actually I think it's best if we did not write a paper about denying ourselves but we wrote a paper about how amazing we are and how far we have technologically advanced in society...I mean after all isn't life about me?
You make some valid points, but we are talking about living as a Kingdom citizen...one that the world does not recognize, besides, you lifted your hand during the prayer of salvation and said yes, to Jesus right? Terrific! So, let me explain what you signed up for, pal. Jesus said in Mathew 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”. Well yeah, but that sounds a bit extreme, I mean what are we supposed to deny? I do not get it! Deny myself? What does that even mean! I am so glad you asked! I will reference various scriptures and explain to you the importance of denying oneself to follow Jesus and truly live a life of freedom.
The four areas of self-denial I will be covering in this paper will be; dying to the delights and pleasures of this life, learning to ignore ourselves, dying to the desires of others and living unto the desires of Christ, and dying to our self-trust. After we discuss those four areas, I will go further into how Life truly manifests itself when we deny ourselves.
Let’s face it, we are all selfish. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are selfish people! Have you ever looked around you and thought about all this evil that is in this world? If you truly investigate the evil that is present, you will see that it all stems from a self-centered, me me me, life. Take for example, greed, why is greed a sin? Because it desires to please only itself and not their fellow man. A person who is greedy will do ANYTHING to get ahead, even if that means killing someone else for the protection of their own wealth.
Jesus calls us to live a life we have not experienced or seen! Jesus lived in this world, but he was not of this world. Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God. To live rightly in his Kingdom is to DENY yourself. In denying yourself, only then can you TRULY follow Jesus. It is one thing to say, I believe in Jesus and yet it is another thing to say, I am a follower of Jesus.
Let us dive into the first area of self-denial, Dying to the delights and pleasures of this life. Some obvious delights and pleasures of this life would be, success, wealth (as we know it), drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, excessive shopping, competitiveness, and the list goes on. Webster's dictionary defines pleasure as, “the state or feeling of being pleased”. Not all delights and pleasures of this life are bad, I mean there are the delights of having an ice cream on a hot sunny day or a hot cocoa on a winter evening. But if we are not careful, they will very much lead to the sin of gluttony. Hebrews 11 towards the end of verse 25 reads, “fleeting pleasures of sin”. Which clearly tells us that the pleasures of this life are fleeting and never really satisfying. I remember when I first came to the Lord, I was being convicted of having sex outside of marriage and so I had to lay that down and that is when I committed myself to the Lord in purity for it pleased Christ and not myself. Sex is a beautiful thing! I mean after all, God created sex...however sex outside the context of marriage is disastrous and “fleeting” - never satisfying, always leaving you to want more and more and more...just like any other pleasure. I also had this desire of becoming wealthy, having money is not wrong or bad by all means! However, making money as your “god” is horrible. I must admit, I do still want to become wealthy but my motive behind why I want to become wealthy has changed. I used to want all the nice things that money could buy, the respect money could gain, and the freedom money could offer. As I continue in my walk with the Lord, none of the things money could give me would satisfy me and now I would rather want to bless my brother or sister with some money or put it towards missionaries who are sacrificing their life to spread the gospel.
The second area we must tackle is, learning to ignore ourselves. I am currently on a water fast and honestly; it is not fun. Fasting is a sure way to discipline oneself and to learn how to ignore the ever-intrusive thoughts and temptations. Galatians 5:24 reads, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. Just because I want something does not mean I need it, nor does it mean I should obey my wants and desires to satisfy the emotion or thought I am having. With Christ as my strength I am learning to deny the cravings of my flesh and through it I am understanding that I am truly set free from being a slave to the passions of my flesh. Jesus calls us to live good lives, to be kind toward one another, even if someone is not kind to you. I think we can all agree that when someone “wrongs” us or treats us unfairly, our first response is to get justice and yet in 1 Peter 2:18-20 it says, “18 You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect.[a] Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel. 19 For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 20 Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you”. Peter is speaking of an extreme scenario, being a slave but this too can be related to an employer, a teacher, or any authority placed above you. I must be honest here, I am still exercising and learning how to deny myself in this particular area - I sometimes want justice served but then the Holy Spirit reminds me of the scripture in Romans 12:19, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.” We are children of the highest God and he will take care of everything for us! So, remember we ought to not live as the World lives, but live as how Christ lives, turning our cheeks.
Next, we must die to the desires of others and live unto the desires of Christ. When I first think of that, I am like, what does that even mean? But then I read it again, slowly. I tend to care about what others think of me and trying to please people. In Galatians 1:10 Paul writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” We cannot please man and Christ simultaneously because remember, the Kingdom that we are a part of is not of this World. That does not mean we are not to show goodness to others, but it means that we are not to obey others in the sense of showing ourselves as “someone” in their eyes. We obey those placed in authority because that's what Christ calls us to do but we are not to live to every whimsical demand of others so that we can look good in their eyes or so they will accept us or even so they will like us. The flesh very much likes the praises of others and it likes to be accepted and loved. We must continue to remind ourselves that we are not looking to be loved or accepted by the world because we believe in Jesus. We are already accepted and loved by him and that is all that matters. I am reminded of the scripture, Mathew 24:35 it says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”.
Finally, we must deny trusting ourselves. It is common and natural for our fleshly instincts to want to control our situations and outcomes. The uncertainty of whether we can accomplish something or whether we are fit for a certain position can leave many of us with feelings of anxiousness, nervousness, and fear. In Philippians 4:6-7 it reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”. As Kingdom citizens, we come to our father in prayer, because Kingdom minded people recognize that their King handles all things. In 1 Peter 5:7 it says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. We no longer must trust ourselves, but trust in the one who saved us while we were in rebellion against him! Jesus says in Mathew 10:29-31, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So do not be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Unless we come to the realization that our father, who is in heaven, truly cares for us then we will continue to try to trust in ourselves and not in him. In Luke 12:26 Jesus says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” When we trust in ourselves and not in Christ we tend to worry and be anxious and really, this is not living life. Jesus came to give life and life more abundantly, as stated in John 10:10.
In the beginning God made us in his image and likeness, God is love and when eve and Adam ate of the tree that God told them not to eat of, that image was lost. Jesus came to restore back to us what was lost; being love and our righteousness before the father. In Colossians 1:16 it says, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Often when I find myself not denying myself, I remind myself verbally, out loud, Elijah, It is not about you. Our fallen nature wants to make it about us, self-preserving, self-centered, self-protecting. To follow Jesus, First we must deny ourselves. When we deny ourselves, we honor God because we recognize that from the very beginning it was all about Jesus. When we take the focus off of ourselves, and fix it back on Christ, a lot of the life pressures are alleviated because the lie is that it's about us when in fact the truth is that it's about Jesus. I want to leave you with this scripture to ponder on...John 8:32, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.