“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”(Heb. 5:8-9)
OBEDIENCE is indispensable for spiritual growth. Your degree of obedience determines the degree of authority you will have in the spirit world. Jesus’ whole life testifies to obedience. At first He obeyed earthly parents: “Then he returned with them to Nazareth, and was submissive to them.” (Luke 2:51). Then total obedience to the Father: “Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19).
“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30).
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38).
“Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28).
“For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.” (John 12:49).
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10).
Christ is for us the perfect example of obedience. He did not even initiate His ministry. Mary, His mother, had to tell the servants to do what He would tell them (John 2: 1-12). He Himself first fulfilled His service to His earthly parents until the age of thirty, after which He then began His spiritual ministry.
If He, who is the Son of God, has done nothing of Himself, how much more should we learn to explicitly obey Him in all things? “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5). As dead people in Christ, we have no existence outside of only obeying our Master. Resurrection in Him, happens at the point of obedience.
Since the creation of man, we have preferred to acquire ourselves the knowledge of good and evil from other sources rather than remain dependent to the Father. We were created to be God’s image-bearers and representatives, which means we reflect the Father, not ourselves. There is no neutral ground. We either reflect His love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control or not. There is a cosmic federation of authorities, powers, world rulers of the darkness of this age, and evil spirits in the spirit-realm aimed at deterring us from pursuing our creational purpose! Every time we use communion, we make our alliance public! Every time we unite as believers, we join forces to resist evil. Every time we act in the opposite spirit, we shine our light. Every time we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, we proverbially strike a stake in the ground to establish God’s Eden, temple, dominion, and habitat here on earth as it is in heaven. We are God’s instruments of healing and restoration in everything we do. He uses us like leaven and yeast to invade the strongholds of evil as an indirect offensive to eventually disarm evil. For this reason, obedience is essentially vital to our spiritual resistance to evil.
The first man failed the test of obedience, but Jesus, the second Man, through His total obedience, restored the creative purpose of man before God so that those who obey Him could have the rulership as God originally intended. “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:7-9).
Why Is Obedience So Difficult?
To be truly obedient, we must be completely selfless. The self, ego, is an obstacle to obedience. Since the first man, we prefer to rather follow our own head, pave our own way, choose our own rate, get to the answers ourselves. We do not want to be directed and foretold.
How much frustration is not caused in the world because people simply do not carry out commands? The opposite is also true: People who are most obedient from school often attain the highest positions. Children who do their homework and carry out instructions of the teacher do the best in that subject. The patients who carry out the doctor’s instructions heal the fastest. Would there be a need for law enforcement if everyone obeyed?
The essence of the word obedience is: hear. We really cannot hear anyone else when we are still full-of-ourselves. The Hebrew word for obey and hear is the same (1 Kings 20: 8): shama ‘(shah-mah); Strong’s # 8085: To hear; to listen, consider, pay attention; to listen carefully and intelligently, to obey. The word has a certain intensity and seriousness. The best known verse where this word is used is Deut. 6: 4: “Sh’ma HEAR oh Yisrael! Lord, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” The idea of hearing and doing is the central credo of Judaism. The word shama is also the key word in Samuel’s name: “God has heard” (1 Sam. 3:20). Clearly, obedience is an attitude of the heart. Spiritual maturity is to be empty of self, set on listening and gaining understanding so that I can go and do exactly what is expected of me. The word hearing implies, to gain understanding, so that I more accurately can fulfil the requested task.
The Crucified Life of Self-Denial
When Jesus laid down the criteria of how to follow Him, His answer was simple: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16: 24-25).
It seems that when we try to do great things for the Lord, He does allow it, but it usually does not last long. How many human efforts have really been inspired by the Lord? All this points back to the original sin where people ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil rather than obey God. The Word is clear that if the Lord started it, it will be sustainable. “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5: 38-39).
Years ago, a spiritual mentor gently put me in my place when I asked him about a certain sin that I could not overcome. “Why do you not simply obey?” was his unexpected answer. “You know you should not do it, so just stop doing it. Be obedient! ” His words exposed the root of the rebellion in my heart. I sincerely confessed, experienced immediate deliverance, but also experienced how the Holy Spirit empowers me to overcome this weakness.
Authors who have dedicated their lives to living out this truth and applying it in everything they have done are still the most valued spiritual resources after hundreds of years. People like Thomas A Kempis, Jeanne Guyon and Brother Lawrence are just a few examples. Contemporary examples may include Mother Teresa, who not only preached on self-sacrifice but also set an example. We need more such leaders who have been surrendered in every way.
Self-denial is a rare commodity in the church today.
Competition, power play, strife and discord are the mantra of the day. The atheist, Nietzsche, said on occasion that people talk about their faith but live according to their passions. The newspapers are full of church leaders who transgress especially in this area. Double standards, cognitive dissonance, Pharisaism, hypocrisy is the fruit of spiritual talk without obedience.
Paul’s call in this regard is a clear call and cry for truth: Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2: 2-11 – NLT). If the whole christ-believing church would obey this instruction we will have wold-wide global revival.
If we compare our spiritual maturity to being-like-Jesus, then the church falls far short and we are still babies. Self-denial is apparently not a popular theme and clearly does not attract such large audiences, otherwise we might have preached more about it. After all, self-denial is not a big new revelation. We often pray our pious prayers with words such as: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) and “…let Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10). Note how many people get the order wrong, saying “I must decrease that God may increase” The Biblical order is actually very important, because it is in God increasing in one’s consciousness, that self disappears. The more conscious we become of God’s presence, and the consequent fear of the Lord, that self quickly get’s to decrease.
The problem is that the self is still on the throne in so many Christians’ lives in so many ways, but we are not even aware of it. The scent that is then emitted is the scent of death and not the eternal aroma of life. However, self-denial is a deep mystery that cannot be worked out with the intellect. When one talks about it, it slips out of your hands even before you can pin it down exactly. It is for this reason that the word self-dying can never be found as a noun in the Bible, but rather as different verbs.
Self Denial Is An Action
We find such an example in Rom. 6: 11-13: “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
“…reckon yourselves to be dead...” The word reckon in the Greek language is Logisomai from which our word ‘logical’ is derived. Logisomai means to work something out, do a calculation and come to a logical conclusion. Furthermore, the verb was written in the aoristic time, which means that the action started somewhere in the past, you are still doing it and will still be doing the act until somewhere in the future. This information sheds much light on the act of self-denial. For example: I think about it and come to the logical conclusion that I have already given my life to the Lord, and that I still have to do it now, and I will do it thousands more times until I am united with Him in the hereafter. This then corresponds to Paul’s admonition to the brethren: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1). The same word Logikos, but now as a noun, is translated here as “reasonable service”.
The doctrine of self-denial is nothing new, but even this doctrine has undergone several extreme interpretations. Thus it was taught that the body is evil and that the body must be castrated and deprived of all enjoyment and pleasure so that we can then live more acceptably before God. A few years ago in my own search for truth on this matter, the Holy Spirit one day revealed to me something that radically changed my perspective. “You cannot try to kill yourself, it is called suicide.” Any self-denial born of self is stillborn and does not lead to life. On the contrary, it often leads to pride and condemnation of others who have not died as much as you have. “Self” is rather glorified in this way. How long you fasted, how much and how long you prayed become indicators of spirituality with a screaming dissonance.
We Can’t Kill Ourselves
We cannot kill ourselves, we can only concede, surrender and yield when He is “killing” us. When He asks you to drink the cup and you finally come to the place through blood sweat where you cry out “no more my will, Lord, but let Your will be done”, at that moment you are crucified and declared dead. Therein lies a deep mystery: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25).
Our efforts to change ourselves are also futile. After all, it must be so, because if we could change or improve ourselves, then why would we need Jesus?
This is exactly what distinguishes us from any other religions. We are the only religion that believes that you can do nothing to get closer to God, or please Him. For this He gave to His Son who kept all the precepts in our place so that we might be justified by His works. “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4: 5).
When Paul discusses the sinful condition of man in Romans 7 and expresses it so beautifully, namely, “the things I want to do I do not do, the wrong things I hate I do,” he comes to the end of the chapter with a desperate and powerless cry: “Oh, wretched man! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). When I come to the end of my efforts, trials and works, I am ready to experience a miracle of resurrection.
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Luke 18: 11-13). The tax collector’s prayer is accepted but not that of the Pharisee, who tried to do right. The tax-collector’s deep sense of sin and inability to change himself causes him to cry out to God for mercy! The Pharisee justifies himself by all the good things he does. He was certainly sincerely grateful that he was not like the bad people, but without realizing that it was God’s grace and not his good works that made him a better person.
Thus, with the thorn in his flesh, Paul had to be content with the words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
So James also says that our prayers will not be answered because of our selfish desires (James 4: 2-3). When we ourselves are still alive, with private agendas and motives, we are spiritually at a closed door. It does make sense, though, because the Bible clearly states that no living flesh will see God and stay alive. But through Jesus Christ we now have boldness to speak without fear to God (Heb. 10:19).
The church is in the business of life change. This is ultimately what every church and preacher should aim for, namely to see that lives change positively and become equal to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). This Christ-centredness does not happen because of human activity and programs. As we follow Him, journey with Him, He leads us to place of crucifixion where we have to make a decision. “Lord not my will, but your be done!”
Different Human-Directed Practices Of Self-Denial.
Over the centuries, various processes have been proposed and tried out by churches:
Some believe in the law. By imposing strict rules and regulations, people are instilled a fear of the consequences if you break a rule. The leaders are presented as very holy and exalted above the rest, as if they had attained a higher or deeper spirituality by keeping their laws. These predecessors are honored and slavishly imitated, even after their death.
Other clergymen try to evoke the emotions of people through various techniques and activities to the point where they experience an emotional experience. Emphasis is placed on feelings and emotions. The idea is, that when people experience something supernatural they will change.
Other churches believe that your thinking is the key to everything you do. After all, one is what he or she thinks. Bible schools, courses, books and long, intricate sermons stimulate the intellect and seek to renew people’s thinking with the Word.
Other churches believe that the will of man is the key to human existence. “You just have to make a wilful decision!” Life is about choices, and you have to take responsibility for your decisions.
Each of these principles contains a strong element of truth, and consequently there is a degree of success in each. None of these focus areas are wrong and can be appropriately grounded in Scripture. The problem is just that none of these aspects and truths will ever be completely successful if man is the initiator.
Even if there is truth in everyone, a will-decision, for example, will never be able to stand the test of time if the decision came from yourself. it is actually quite funny to see how hard people try do fulfil something religious like fasting through pure will-power and miserably fail. If I could just make a decision and change course, why do I need the Lord? But when I come to Him in my misery and weakness and I bare my weakness before Him, He cultivates it in me to be able to make a decision and change my course. Not so much because I have “willed it”, but because He “has willed in in me” (Phil. 2:19).
Even keeping the law should not come from myself, but because He guides me and teaches me to avoid certain things and to do certain things no more. After all, He has now written the law in our hearts (Jer. 31:34).
So we can discuss every aspect of being a church, praising and worshiping, preaching, evangelizing, intercessing and praying, and many more. Everything that is born of the flesh leads to death, but that which is born of Christ and the Spirit brings life!
Living From His Resurrection Power
One day I was preparing a sermon on the weapons of the Spirit. This was not a new message and I like to discuss weapons like our testimony, the Blood, the name of Jesus, the Word, etc. The morning I woke up, the Holy Spirit said to me, “You missed the most important weapon.” I wrote this sentence down on a piece of paper and asked the Lord to teach me what this weapon is that He is referring to. After a while, the answer came to me: “Self-denial is our most powerful weapon against the onslaught of the enemy.” “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Pet. 4: 1). You cannot fight with something that is already dead. Someone who is dead may not feel too complied with, or be offended in themselves. Someone who is dead does not care that they are taken advantage are and abused. Someone who is dead does not have dreams and desires and ambitions.
“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Col. 3: 3-4). In this verse, “you HAVE died” is written again in the aorist. That is, our life was given to Him at some point, and through His resurrection power He made us a new creature in Him (2 Cor. 5:17). However, this process continues every day: as we face the glory of the Lord with a naked face “as in a mirror, we are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Lord who is the Spirit. ” (2 Cor. 3:18). “Having been crucified with Christ, our life is now also hidden in Him, and the enemy can do us no harm.” (Col. 3: 2; Gal. 2:20).
The sum total of our new life is that we no longer live, and only continue to exist when we obey His commands in obedience. Our life is merely a reflection and response to His love, His grace and His plan for our lives.
The greatest wonder of all is that He does not want to control our free will. No, He wants our will to be intertwined with His will. There should be no conflict and distinction between our will and His will. When we have lost everything and given up, after we have relinquished all control and given up, He gives us new authority and authority in Him. Only then, when we have become completely satisfied and satisfied in Him, are we truly free to enjoy life in the abundance that He has planned for us. We are no longer afraid; death, danger and crises have lost their sting. After all, we can lose nothing if we never had ownership in the first place. Someone who is dead owns nothing, desires nothing, longs for nothing.
This is once again a great mystery, but true life and deep peace lie only in our total surrender to Him. When all works come to a standstill, all attempts to escape are in vain and you as a person just surrender, He comes by His grace and lifts us up. Even our faith can sometimes become an obstacle because I have to believe, I have to do this and that now. No, it’s love spotted to the bone and exposing to purity that stands the test. Peter’s life is a striking example of how his relationship with the Lord deepened to the point where he could no longer prove, impress or progress: “Lord, You know my heart, You know that I love You.”
Self-denial is central to the church’s success in Christianizing the world and making disciples of all nations. You can only make someone a disciple if you are one and know what it is about. Jesus taught His disciples to lay down their lives for the sheep. What they, like Him, literally did.
- How many preachers have this mentality?
- How much of what we are doing is not simply born out of ambition, self-exaltation and competition with others?
- Are we not just trying to hide our own inferiority and inner poverty from external successes and pretend?
- Why do we praise and worship the Lord?
- Do we do this to be seen or do we try to get into God’s good books to avoid His judgment? Do we fear people, and are we sensitive to their needs and likes and dislikes while completely losing sight of the Lord?
- Who are we focused on?
- What do we think about all day?
- Are we, even in our attempts at sanctification, not merely preoccupied with ourselves?
- In human relationships, how many times do we let our will prevail and manipulate our situations to our own gain?
- Many times we color a situation so that we look a little better and the other person worse. Or we try to draw a little attention to ourselves about exactly how much we are suffering and how much we have given and sacrificed.
- “I have had it so far! I will never do that! ” “The Lord must never ask me to go to that place!”
These are examples of the self that still prevails too much.
It is told of a certain pastor from India who visited America. He was warmly welcomed by church leaders and for a time taken to various churches and ministries across America. At the end of his visit, he was publicly asked to comment on what he had observed during his visits to churches in that country. In a typical Indian way, he stood up, stared at the audience, and said, “It’s interesting to see how far the church has come in America, without God!” I do not think he was invited again, but the church in Africa does not look much better. In countries where the majority of citizens are Christians, there is still high-profile lawlessness, poverty and corruption. So many preachers use the gospel to enrich themselves and have greater influence and power over people.
Certainly this is not the case everywhere and I generalize and exaggerate the point, but that there really is a need to put one’s hand in one’s own bosom is a fact.
Call it revival or reformation, but every great movement of God began with a person or a handful of people who began to seize God because they could do nothing more of themselves. The systems of men and the structures of mankind have curtailed what God wants to do. So history is full of pioneers and reformers who wanted to do only one thing and that is to obey God. So they started a new movement.
So many times one hears sermons about who we are in Christ. That is right and we must understand who we are in Christ, but we must also understand that we can only be in Christ if we ourselves are dead! Self-denial does not become another work we add to Christ. No, we die in the faith! “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And what I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ” (Gal. 2:20).
I simply surrender and He does the rest. I’m not trying to punish myself. I GIVE UP!
Let me explain in the light of our struggle with sin: The more I try not to sin, the more I want to sin. When I confess my sin and turn away from my sin and look to Him in desperation to save my wretched man, and then in faith claim His salvation and deliverance for myself, something supernatural happens somewhere. When and how we do not know, but suddenly, without you trying or realizing it, He works in you and He gives you His grace to no longer sin in that area.
That is what we mean by living in His resurrection power now! Or to live according to the ability of His grace. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12). He has given us the power to live right now according to His will. We see this transition clearly in Romans 7 and 8. In Romans 7, Paul explains that we have been handed over to the law of sinful nature. Then comes the most important turning point: “Oh, wretched man! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). While one still has plans and strives for this and tries to do so, you are still stuck in your sin. We all have to get to the point of the mysterious death of self where all works are stopped. A place where our death lies in the arms of our Savior and Lord in the faith that He will raise us up. Only then can we move on to chapter 8 where there is no more condemnation against us because we live in Christ! This law of sinful nature can be compared to the law of gravity. We can try to break this law, but only until our power runs out or our gasoline runs out. Then everything that was up in the air quickly comes down to earth. But in Romans 8: 2 Paul speaks of another type of law – the law of the Spirit. This law can be compared to helium. Helium makes it possible for us to soar and rise from the earth without any effort or effort. That is why Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will never fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
How Does One Walk In The Spirit?
By keeping you busy with the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8: 5). What things of the Spirit? That which He commands and tells us to do. The things for which we received faith in that He spoke to us about it and revealed Himself clearly to us. It means we have learned to wait on Him. . . and only to do what He says. It is the spoken (rhema) Word of God that calls us to the new things and life in the Spirit.
This guidance of the Spirit will always be in the opposite direction than what he himself would have wanted to do. HE will lead us rather to give away, to forgive, to serve, to love those who do not deserve it, unconditionally, in short to act in the opposite spirit. This is the essence of what it means to live in the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5: 27-48). In this passage Jesus gives clear precepts and instructions that are very difficult for the natural and carnal man to carry out. Love your enemies! Be a blessing and do something that will be a blessing to those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you! Pray for those who abuse you and try to persecute you. Eina vlees!
Gandhi applied only a few of these principles, thereby liberating India from British colonialism. It is the greatest spiritual weapon in the arsenal of every believer, if we only want to realize it. However, so many times in the midst of conflict we want to justify or defend ourselves and the more we try to do so, the more we end up in disfavor and in trouble. The secular worldview is based on self-assertion, self-examination, selfishness, self-esteem, self-satisfaction, self-drive, self-obsession, self-promotion, self-esteem and a series of self-help books and courses.
Remember, “self” is always looking for shortcuts and usually has a personal agenda and motive. He himself disturbs the image of God for which every human being was created (Rom. 8:29). Self is the poison in our DNA that causes us to live contrary to God’s plan and in enmity with Him. Self destroys God’s plan with our lives. Thank God that He does not kill us in one day! This crucifixion process is a daily process of learning to die to the law of the flesh and death, and learning to rise through faith in the law of the Spirit. Paul is our example. “I die day by day, brethren, as I glory in you in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:31).
I die every day as the will of God is revealed to me through the Word and as I am confronted by it to be not only a hearer, but a doer. So every day I learn a new operating system of the Spirit and I am renewed daily to a whole new outlook on life.
The more I die, the freer I become from fears, urges and desires. “But they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24). Interestingly, when Paul mentions this list of sins, he never wants to make a claim on us, but merely reminds us that we are supposed to be dead to sin.
That is the sole purpose of all ministry in the church – to live a crucified life!
The result of a crucified life is a life of victory. A life where I no longer try to pretend all day. Unpretentious, free from inhibitions, no longer self-conscious and self-contained. Defensive mechanisms become unnecessary. I can be myself and enjoy life exuberantly as a child. Silence and peace deep inside you. Satisfaction. A place of truth and light, clarity, honesty and integrity. Insight and wisdom because you see life from a completely different perspective. An inner joy and eternal steadfast bliss. You are no longer driven to try to prove something. Your life is a life of gratitude and love. Not just grateful that something happened, but constantly grateful and full.
The crucified life is truly THE LIFE:
- It is after your death that He raises you up to sit with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2: 6).
- Then you are able to do all things (Phil. 4:13),
- more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37),
- free from condemnation (Rom. 8: 1),
- made acceptable among the believers (Eph. 1: 6) .
There can only be resurrection from the dead after you have died. While I still see things as my property, my ministry, my gift and talent, I am still alive. Someone who is dead owns nothing anymore and has forfeited all ownership. We are now inhabitants and citizens of a heavenly reality and kingdom. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20).
We do not seek rewards and rewards for the things we do here on earth, because we see with spiritual eyes the glorious reward that awaits us in the hereafter. We no longer do things to be seen, much less to try to gain recognition from human institutions. Because our recognition lies in the fact that we can talk to the Lord like a friend and that He reveals Himself to us regularly. “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram.’ I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” (Gen. 15: 1). The Lord Himself is our reward!
Some Practical Points of Self-Denial That You Can Apply Daily:
• Do not linger and procrastinate to start your most important day activities.
• Do not complain about the little time or the lot of work that needs to be done; rather buy out the time and finish it.
• Do everything without murmuring.
• Do not pretend how heavy you are carrying; do everything with joy and conviction.
• Do not pay attention to the big and important things you are doing.
• When referring to someone, do so based on first-hand evidence and not hearsay.
• Be quiet about people and their things and the mistakes you see; do not convey stories.
• Do not seek the honor or gratitude of people; do it all for the Lord.
• Do not feel unhappy or offended if your advice is not sought or used.
• Never allow yourself to be played favorably against another.
• Do not desire to always lead the company or be the center.
• Do not seek the favor, sympathy or understanding of people.
• Take the blame and take responsibility rather than pass it on to others.
• When you do not get the credit or honor you deserve, do not be upset, be thankful!
• Learn to forgive quickly and to say sorry quickly.
• Do not go if you have not been sent, and do not help before your help is asked.
• Leave the great things you want to do for the Lord and allow Him to do great things through you.
• We cannot always choose how the Lord wants to use us; He does not always use us to perform great miracles.
• Do nothing for which you have no faith.
• Do not seek the honor of men.
• Never forget who preceded you and who should come to you. You have achieved nothing alone.
• Ambition comes after He has given you the command and mandate. Then do everything to the best of your ability and complete what He has given you to do.
• Success lies in the extent to which you have accomplished what He has commanded you to do.
• Do not worry or worry about too high things. There is enough power for every day.
• Do not be arrogant and think too much of your own opinion.
• Stay within what God has called you to do.
• Do not give an opinion on what God has called another person to do.
• Never compare yourself to another.
• Stay quieter.
• Learn to wait.
• Always stay focused and focused on His movements, word, impulse, emotion, action.
• The people who crucified Jesus were the so-called church of that time. Accept it! Christians are going to disappoint you the most and are tools in God’s hand to kill you. Surrender to the process, and do not bail out!
• Submit to authority.
• A prayer life is proof that you are truly dependent on God and can do nothing of yourself.
In Madame Guyon’s works she often uses the word “abandonment” which means to surrender; carefree freedom; unforcedness, giving up, letting go, leaving something; surrender; throw away, give up, yield, unclaimed goods, leave behind. I did not understand for a long time why she specifically used this word, until I heard this explanation.
We Must Deny Ourselves
Where else in the Bible is this word used? Well, Peter denied Jesus. What did he specifically do to deny Him? He said he did not know Him. He denied that he knew Jesus at all or that there was a connection between them. He therefore denied Jesus’ existence. He does not know who He is. If only we could do the same with ourselves! To forget about self, to deny its existence. That’s how we become free from sin and the old sinful nature. After all, we have been crucified with Him by faith and no longer live. That is why we were baptized as a sign of our dead life in Christ. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3: 3). We no longer exist. We have no rights. We have given up our right to exist on things and people to now exist in Him and through Him. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28).
When we struggle with sin we are still trapped in that sin. But when we confess it and in faith take up and claim our new character in Jesus Christ, we forget about that sin and days later we realize that we are free and that that sin no longer has a hold on us.
The Lord spoke to me loudly one day because I continue to confess a certain sin without renouncing it and overcoming it. It is not our confession that makes the difference, but our faith. “For every one that is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that the world has overcome, namely our faith.” (1 John 5: 4). We must truly turn and take up our new identity in Christ. Forget about sin and the old man with his urges. Confession without faith is futile and meaningless. On the contrary, we actually confess only because we are afraid we will be caught out and not because we really think about what our sin is doing to God. Our confession is self-centered and born in our own selfishness and self.
But true repentance that God causes is to truly come to a moment of truth where I realize the consequences of what I am doing for myself, for others and for God. In Colossians 3, Paul often uses the image of the old man and sinfulness that we must take off and throw away like old clothes and then put on the new garment in Christ. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, the saints and beloved, with compassion, mercy, humility, meekness, longsuffering. Tolerate one another and forgive one another if one has a complaint against the other; as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. And above all things clothe yourselves with the love that is the bond of perfection.” (Col. 3: 12-14).
The ultimate goal is not to remain dead, but to rise in the new identity of Christ Jesus our Lord. But He raises us up. He initiates resurrection! We often get up again too quickly.
So often today we hear the words: “The answer is within you!”; “Just be yourself”. There is no question of being yourself and that the answer is in you before the “foreskin” of your heart is not “circumcised”. The answer does not lie in a person. “I know, O Lord, that man’s way does not belong to him; not to a man to walk and direct his steps.” (Jer. 10:23). “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer. 17: 9-10). “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 14:12).
The Lord must first remove the poison of self and I and then He gives our will back to us. Our DNA needs to change first. Our salvation lies only in the fact that He makes us new creatures by the power of the cross and resurrection (2 Cor. 5:17). Then we can be talking about yourself and that the answer is within you – Christ within you: “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27).
Luther and others who started the sixteenth-century Reformation did not simply put ideas on the table. The Reformation of the sixteenth century did not have its origin in the lecture room or on Wittenberg’s door. It was only after Luther had a personal deepening or encounter experience with God that he had the conviction to write the 95 statements and nail them to Wittenberg’s church door.
True reformation therefore begins with Him. He is the one measure of our life. We were created for one purpose and that is to be like Him. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom. 8:29). “He is the exact image and revelation of God. He, who is the gleam of His glory and the imprint of His being and carries all things by the word of His power, having wrought by Himself the cleansing of our sins, sat at the right hand of the majesty in the heights .” (Heb. 1: 3).
Faith and Obedience Always Work Together
Without faith no one can please God (Heb. 11: 6). Each time, those who came to faith were added to the church. Faith’s works and fruits must bear witness to the revelation of Christ in your life. Many people in the church believe in God and believe that the Lord saves and saves them. However, they have not yet taken possession of the promise. It is one thing to believe and another to act in faith. Faith is an action.
I can confess my sin every day, but not change. I must therefore believe, express my faith like the heroes of faith of Hebrews 11 and in obedience do what I believe. Obedience is the evidence of my faith. By being obedient, does my faith turn into action? Peter believed he would also be able to walk on water. When he asked and Jesus answered him, he had to get up according to his faith and climb over the edge of the boat and step on the water. So many people believe, but have never climbed over the edge!
When I believe and do the word, the word becomes flesh in my life. We want to justify ourselves with theological reasoning not to do so. We are actually looking for excuses for the secret fear within us to dare to obey Him. Living in obedience to God’s voice is not easy for the flesh. He sometimes asks you to spit on the ground and spit mud with it and put it on the eyes of a blind man. This may mean that He asks you to sell all your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him. This is why self-denial is a prerequisite for becoming His disciple – otherwise you will be constantly offended by what He asks of you.
God has already given the instructions, He has already moved, He has already paid the price and made the promise and gifts of salvation available to us. We just have to get up and take possession of it by faith.
The pastors of the church must begin to think and reason through the sight of the cross. “… for I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2: 2). Like the target in the telescope of a rifle, we must learn to look at everything through the cross. We can preach nothing but Jesus the Crucified and that He rose as the Firstfruits of many sons.
Let us take for example guidance and suffering in the church. Paul does not give seven cheap steps on how to be successful in everything you do. In any case, he was not successful according to the standards of today’s preachers, who only preach abundance and wealth. No, he says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill in my flesh the remnant of the afflictions of Christ for his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1:24).
We are afraid of suffering and avoid it, but if we allow God to guide us through it, the enemy will no longer be able to hold on to us. Most of the time, someone has to lose everything first before they discover the riches of the kingdom. Paul sees his suffering in perspective of the body, because he learned that his life was poured out for the church as a drink offering. Every member of the body exists for the body and for the service of the body. We have no right to exist without the body.
Obedience does not mean that you will always experience only good things. Obedience does not necessarily mean earthly success. There is a difference between suffering because you did not want to listen and suffering because you were obedient. God uses suffering to mature us and develop our character to bear the blessing of His glory. Suffering gives you depth and brings a spiritual weight in the Spirit. You are no longer tossed around by circumstances and the stories of people. You are anchored in your spirit.
Suffering brings authority. No true authority comes in any other way. Here too Jesus was our example. “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he has become the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him. ” (Heb. 5: 8-9). It is through suffering that God frees us from all kinds of fears. That which you fear happens. In suffering we are confronted with these fears until we cry out to God and trust in Him alone. Thus death, poverty, conflict and persecution lose their sting and we are freed from every hold that satan can have in us at all.
The world is eagerly awaiting the revelation of the mature sons of God who do not build their own kingdoms, but each contribute to the building of the kingdom of God through them. A crucified life is the product of God that must be spread throughout the world, in every home and workplace. The church does not represent the image of God while still ruling itself. But the more we choose to lay down ourselves, the more clearly Christ becomes visible in our lives. Again, we can not crucify ourselves but we can surrender! Let go and let God! The following books are worth reading on this essential topic.